Waxwings have continued to entertain many birders and non-birders during the first few weeks of 2011. Although the larger flocks have now headed to the south of the country and over the channel to mainland Europe there are still small numbers scattered all over the UK. After many weeks of trying to track down birds in and around Shrewsbury, and only managing a brief distant view of 17 birds from my study (right), I was lucky enough to catch up with a small flock in the east of town.
Up to 31 birds were present in trees in a quiet residential area, an unusually pleasant area for Waxwings that are usually found in retail parks, along road verges and a few weeks earlier on a roundabout along the A5! The sun was out and the birds gave cracking views as they came down to feed on a single Rowan tree in a front garden.
Favoured perching tree prior to flying down to berries on a Rowan
The breeze played havoc with their hair styles!
After reviewing a couple of shots on the cameras LCD screen I realised there was one Waxwing with a number of rings on its legs. A quick search on the web when I returned home revealed that the white ring and standard metal ring on the right leg indicated it was a bird ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group so I sent them an email with the combination of three coloured rings on the left leg. A quick response showed the Waxwing was a 3rd year male ringed in Aboyne, near Aberdeen in early November and subsequently seen by another birder in Manchester at the end of November.
Ringing provides interesting and valuable information on bird movements so keep an eye out for ringed birds when looking at flocks of Waxwings and other species. More information can be found by following the links below:
Happy New Year to one and all from Turnstone Ecology!
Its been a great few months for Turnstone Ecology and this is always an exciting time of year, the snows been a real feature of the festive period and it makes for great photos but spare a thought for the birds........
During the winter our birds act a lot like ourselves; some disappear to warmer climes, some remain here to tough it out and others (such as the thrush flock pictured to the left) come from even colder areas in search of food.For those birds on our shores throughout the winter finding food and making sure they keep their energy up to survive is their greatest test.
Studies by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) showed that the cold weather over last winter (09/10) resulted in significant population declines for many resident bird populations.In particular the numbers of Robin and Wren fell along with a decline in numbers of Dunnock and Greenfinch. In contrast the study showed that our migrant species fared much better with Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Reed warbler numbers higher than average and many migrant species produced significantly more nestlings than in recent years.
For birders who have started their 2011 lists in the last fewdays the cold weather has ensured we start the year with large flocks of winter birds that have been pushed into the country from north ern Europe in search of food. This winter has seen higher than usual numbers of winter visitors driven in by cold northerly winds with large flocks of typical winter visitors such as Redwing and Fieldfare being joined by scarcer species such as Northern Long-tailed Tits, Arctic Redpolls and what seems to have become this winters speciality… the Waxwing!
Waxwings typically arrive in the UK at the start of winter from their summer breeding grounds in Scandinavia, usually present in only small numbers in northern and eastern UK. The birds are immediately on the hunt for our berry trees and bushes, with Rowan a particular favourite, and with the numbers of berries already dwindling by the time of their arrival the flocks often move inland to find food, ending up in orchards, shop parades and superstore car parks.
Flocks of waxwings are usually in the tens but have been recorded at a peak of over 600 in Scotland this year with estimates of over 2500 individuals in the UK this winter. Turnstone Ecology’s winter record is a flock of around 150 in Peterborough but with the influx this winter they have been recorded in the vicinity of all of our offices.
Whilst we can only really offer food sources for Waxwing by planting berry trees and bushes we can all do our bit for other species in hard winters such as this. Top tips for feeding birds and helping them through the winter can be found from the RSPB at www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/feeding/index.aspx.
Just remember that by providing food and water in our gardens when times are hard we can often get better views of more secretive and scarce birds .
Good luck for the new year, get those lists ticking over and enjoy the last few weeks of our winter visitors.