I'll open by taking the opportunity to wish you all a healthy and happy New Year.
In mid-November, I'd attempted to photograph Waxwings at Lyddinton in Rutland, but only got very distant, and very brief, views. Since then I've been waiting for another opportunity to photograph these birds. I passed up on a couple of opportunities, as I was either otherwise indisposed or didn't fancy the location.
On Saturday 31st December, in spite of very dull weather, I went to Loughborough, where there had been recent sightings of Waxwings. I spent some time there, and there were a few other people looking for them, but none were seen.
I noticed that they were reported as sighted again at this location, this time in larger numbers, on the Sunday. Monday 2nd January was forecast as being sunny and so I set off back to Loughborough, which is about 15 miles (24 km) from my home, taking a picnic lunch with me.
I arrived to be told that 26 Waxwings had been there, but they'd departed northward about five minutes before my arrival. Having had a walk in that direction and found nothing, I went back to bide my time in waiting. I kept myself amused with chatting with other people, and attempting a few photos of the Mistle Thrushes, Redwings, and Fieldfares that were in the area.
After nearly an hour, the birds returned! The sun was quite strong, and, of course, low at this time of year, so it was very necessary to manoeuvre oneself to a suitable photographic viewpoint. There was a disadvantage to this being a relatively large flock compared to what is usually seen in these parts on the rare occasions that these birds visit, and this is that it is difficult to get photos of a bird in focus without the image being spoilt by neighbouring birds which are out of focus. They do tend to stay close together! The difficulty was compounded by the trees that they were feeding in being relatively densely branched. The first image, below, will illustrate this point.
|(Bohemian) Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) - Loughborough, Leicestershire|
I usually restate the species in my captions to images, but will, for the following Waxwing images, just caption them with notes as appropriate.
Male Waxwings have a thicker yellow band to the end of the tail than females do. They also usually have more prominent red 'candles' on the secondaries.
|male bird on left, female on right|
It was not until I got home and started looking through the more than 400 frames that I had fired off that I realised that I had taken almost zero photos that showed the fabulous markings on the top side of the wings.
The following two images also show the upper wing markings.
|female on the left, male on the right|
|with Redwing (Turdus iliacus)|
I'd been there a while, and had observed that the Waxwings were very much drawn to a relatively small tree with orange berries (almost certainly a Sorbus cultivar) which was further up the road, and somewhat closer to the road than the other trees that they were visiting. The problem was that the road was busy with traffic, and the birds only stopped on the tree for a few seconds before they were frightened off by passing cars. After a while, I realised that this location might give me opportunities for some different shots, so I made my way over there and awaited their arrival.
Again I ran into the problem of the birds being crowded together and getting out-of-focus birds spoiling an image in which the main subject was in focus. They were also tending to feed in the far (shaded) side of the tree as the traffic was approaching them from the sunny side. Here's a couple of images with the birds in the tree - at least I managed to get one shot with a single bird!
As the birds were only alighting on the tree for a few seconds before flying off again, It gave some opportunity to try for flight shots. Again, the crowding together of the birds posed a problem - and they do fly rather swiftly and erratically! Here are a few with them landing in the tree.
I tried for some flight shots, but I didn't do as well as I might have done as I made the mistake of trying to compromise with my camera settings to allow me to make both static shots of the birds in the tree and flight shots - this was very tempting to do as the birds were back and forth almost continually at one point. As they were flying around, the birds stayed in relatively close formation, with all pointing in the same direction. Just before they landed, the neat formation broke up and I rather like the semi-chaos that resulted! Here are a few flight shots which didn't come out too badly.
This last Waxwing image is, I confess, a cheat. I rather like the shape made by the right hand bird, although I wish that I'd got them a bit sharper, and with better light. However, there was a third bird which was badly out of focus, which I have digitally removed!
The Supporting Cast
Whilst the Waxwings were away between visits, I occupied myself by photographing some of the thrushes that were around.
|Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)|
|Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)|
|Redwing (Turdus iliacus)|
|(Bohemian) Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) - Loughborough|
I returned to the site briefly today (Thursday 5th January) with pal John. This time I didn't compromise in trying to get the flight shots in the short time we were there but, until I get them up on the computer, I have no idea whether I got it right this time.
Thank you for dropping by.