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.