Thursday 1 January 2009

Waxwings and Goldcrests


The end of the year was exciting. Waxwings are common winter visitors from Russia and Scandinavia every five or six years when there is a large influx of them (called an irruption). 2008 was one of those years. There were none near me, however, and I had to go to Folkestone to see them (for the first time in my life). I arrived at 9.00 but none were to be seen. I waited near the carpark of the warehouse where they were last seen but still saw nothing although a redwing came to feed on the berries on a low bush nearby. Waxwings are often seen in supermarket carparks as they often have the ornamental berry bushes that waxwings like.

I was talking to another birdwatcher when someone told us the waxwings were 100m up the road. We saw them in the top of a tree in another carpark. There were 8 or 9 of them. At a certain point they all descended to feed from a nearby berry bush so I could get closer views. Then they flew back to the top of the tree again to digest what berries they had taken. This process was repeated every 5 or 6 minutes. Two of these handsome birds are shown below.


The following day I went to see a ring-necked duck in Hampshire. The only problem was that it wasn't there. It was so cold that the sand pits half full of water were all largely frozen over. I wandered around and flushed three or four jack snipe (they startled me just as much). That was a year tick for me, making my total for the year 200. As I was leaving I heard goldcrests calling. Five or six were coming towards me feeding on the thistle and gorse seeds. I put up my tripod and kept still. Goldcrests are, with firecrests, Britain's smallest birds. They weigh only 9gm and are very active, always in motion. I had never been able to get a good photo of one up to now. As I was alone they came closer and I was able to take several photos as they passed. This more than made up for not seeing the duck.


  1. Hi Phil. Waxwings have been known to come here year after year. I live at Halling and I have seen them in this area 2 or 3 years on the trot. Not always in great numbers I must admit, but there tends to be more of them at times if they have a exceptional breeding year in Scandinavia. No matter what year,if they have bigger broods than normal then come winter time the food they would have relied on has to be spread out among a lot more Waxwings so hence it runs out quicker so they have no option but to move on to where the food is.So we can assume that 2008 was a very good year for breeding Waxwings

  2. Nice waxwings. Still haven't seen those. I got my first Goldcrest photo on Saturday though - and you're right, they are tough to get a camera on! Keep up the good work

  3. Brilliant photos Phil, good to see your blog up and running.

  4. Ken, QT and Devil, many thanks for you kind comments. I'm looking forward to 2009. Ken, I sometimes go to Oare as my in-laws live at Blean. May see you there. Best wishes. Phil.


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