Waxwings!

This year there has been an irruption of waxwings into the UK, presumably because of a shortage of berries in Scandinavia and Russia. It’s a bird I have wanted to see forever: it’s exceptionally glamorous looking and it’s a regular-but-uncommon visitor. So since it became apparent that there were a whole lot of them around, I have been religiously checking birdguides.com for news of sightings, looking for somewhere conveniently reachable by public transport from London. Initially they were all up north — flocks of hundreds in Scotland — but they have been spreading down across the country, and over the past week or so there have been quite a few seen in London. But a lot of those are records of the ‘twelve seen flying west’ variety; great for the person who saw them, but hardly worth rushing across town to try and get a look at.

But three days ago there were about 90 in the trees opposite the B&Q at Folkestone; and then the day after there were 160, and it seemed like a good bet that there would still be some yesterday, so off I went.

Result! That’s just a few of ’em. And I know it’s not the greatest picture, but I took it by pointing my phone camera through a pair of binoculars, so all things considered, I reckon it’s pretty good.

Here are some waxwings bathing in water that had collected on the roof of the Action Carpets warehouse:

And here are some waxwings scoffing berries:

I had some pretty amazing views, although my photos don’t do them justice. If you want to see what they really look like, check out this photo which someone else took in Folkestone.

Incidentally, it would be nice to think that birdwatching would all take place in beautiful wild environments, like the Ecuadorean cloud forest or Pembrokeshire clifftops, but surprisingly often it seems to end up involving the car park of a large DIY retailer, or the roof of a carpet warehouse, or some other equally glamorous setting. I guess if you live somewhere as built up as the south of England, the birds just have to fit in where they can.

And I guess if I had been somewhere wilder, I wouldn’t have had access to a van selling what might be the most British sandwich I’ve ever seen: the Breakfast in Bread. Oh yes, it is what it sounds like: bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding and fried egg, stuffed into a baguette. Amazing. I wimped out and had a BLT myself, but just the fact that the Breakfast in Bread exists is good enough for me.

4 Comments

  1. 14 December 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    In Folkestone?

    I’ve gotta go there tomorrow to meet mother for the exchanging of the gifts. I’ll see if I can talk sense into the birds and get them to move 80 miles west.

  2. Harry
    14 December 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    They’re turning up all over the place at the moment. Check out any tree with berries on, particularly rowan: you never know your luck. If you fancy a little twitch, you could check out birdforum.net and I’m sure someone can point you to somewhere they’ve been seen near you.

  3. Jill
    17 December 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    The garden is awash in cedar waxwings this week, along with dark-eyed juncos and Steller’s jays. It makes for lovely but horribly noisy days. Hard to say whether the cats or the hummingbirds are more upset by the bird festival, but it’s fun to watch the hummers try to chase off the jays while the cats run about from window to window in utter panic.

  4. Harry
    17 December 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s peculiar for me to think of waxwings and hummingbirds together. I completely associate waxwings with the frozen north and hummingbirds with sunny places.

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