Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Winters Past - Waxwing invasion.

I've been tied up a bit recently so I  thought I would dig into the archives and post some shots of one of my favourite winter visitors from our extreme Northern European Latitudes,.

Called Waxwing because the red tips to their secondary flight feathers resemble red sealing wax  ( for those that can remember sealing wax ! ) used for sealing envelopes and documents in bygone years.  

Some winters we maybe have a few hundred visitors spread throughout the UK from around October to April but in exceptional years, reflecting high populations and poor domestic autumn berry crops, eruptions take place and we receive several thousand birds, some flocks can be as large as 700 individuals.

The biggest flock that I have seen personally numbered about one hundred.

These flocks take advantage of our own winter berry crops stripping  trees and shrubs with great enthusiasm and speed, favourite food sources are rowan, whitebeam, hawthorn, cotoneaster and virtually any ornamental berry bearing shrub.

In winter Waxwing need to eat two or three times their body weight each day as berry's are a pretty insubstantial diet.

Attractive and colourful as they are they always remind me of imperious Japanese characters with heavily made up eyes from the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Mikado .... or when they raise their crests, members of a punk band.


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