Sunday, 10 March 2013

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian waxwing, Lancaster
There is something undeniably alluring about waxwings. Their nomadic lifestyle, exotic beauty and relative tameness all add to their unquestionable appeal. In eruption years we all hope to find our own waxwings and it seems that no matter how many we've seen in the past we will always make time to go and look at these enigmatic wanderers when they appear in our region.
I missed the first big wave in the autumn and so by the time I returned to the UK in December most had passed through the North West. There was even a considerable flock of up 85 birds present barely 30 metres from my house in mid-November.
I have caught up with, or bumped into, a small number of waxwings since my return but I was pleasantly surprised to discover a flock of 22 near the Millennium Orchard this morning.
I first heard their distinctive trill, then noticed the birds as they flew a short distance to a birch where they sat for some time before heading off once more. After an hour or so, I came back to the spot armed with my camera and manged to get a couple of half-decent shots as they fed on some berries on an ornamental shrub in a garden on Sunnyside Close. There were only 5 waxwings present at this time.

Cedar waxwings, Victoria BC
In North America this species is known as Bohemian waxwing, and on Vancouver Island they are a scarce visitor best looked for among flocks of the much commoner cedar waxwings. The latter species is easily found in BC and had I known just how often I would see them in Canada I may not have bothered twitching that one in Nottingham back in 1996!
After all, seeing cedar waxwings greedily feasting on winter berries or flycatching from a Douglas fir certainly seems more appealing than watching on while standing outside a pork pie factory on a busy main road in the east Midlands...

In other news, it's been a fairly slow week down at Aldcliffe. The smew seems to have prematurely vacated Freeman's Pools. In 2012 and 2010 it hung around well into late March, so it may well yet make a reappearance. Otherwise a pair of shoveler turned up midweek and were still there today along with 3 gadwall, 18 teal, 1 tufted duck and a pair of dapper little grebes looking resplendent in their summer garb.
The green sandpiper seems to have settled into a routine at the Wildfowlers' Pools for now and can be seen relatively easily from the metal gate on the path or from Dawson's Bank.
The barn owl has been putting on a decent show too, though it has been a little erratic in its arrival time on a couple of occasions.
On the mammal front, I've seen a couple of brown hares and a billion brown rats. Oh, and a weasel showed well on the path near Walled Meadow on Wednesday.
With the weather turning decidedly wintry once more it looks like we'll have to wait a little longer before we see the first returning spring migrants. Sand martin, northern wheatear, chiffchaff and little-ringed plover should all turn up before the end of the month if conditions allow.


Fairfield Association said...

Fantastic photos and an excellent resource for the community! Came to your blog via the link in your comment on the Fairfield/FAUNA blog - we've only recently started this up, partly as a means of engaging the local community and particularly children, so it was a treat to be able to look at something so informative and well established.

Jon Carter said...

Thanks for your comment! I'll be doing my best to post any interesting bird, and other wildlife, sightings from the FAUNA reserve on both the Aldcliffe and the Fairfield blog.

Fairfield Association said...

Thanks Jon, much appreciated. Will make others aware of your blog. Enjoy the sunshine!