Waxwings, and for those reading this in the USA I'm talking about Bohemian as opposed to Cedar, always seem to have a special place in the hearts of British birders. It's not like they are a true rarity, if you were desperate to have one on your British list you'd manage it in the year pretty easily, but they are certainly unusual enough that they are appreciated and they're beauty and tendency to stick in a particular area having found food means many will make an effort to go visit any that turn up reasonably locally.
For me though this opportunity has never arisen. Since my interest in birding really took hold I've always been a bit too far south to get local waxwings. Generally those in Scotland or the more northern parts of England are those that get British waxwings as they are pushed out of Scandanavia by the cold.
This year though a shedload of waxwings turned up early in the winter in the UK and everyone has been expecting them to get pushed further and further south with cold snaps ongoing and food getting used up earlier than usual in the north as a result of the influx. We waited and waited, as more and more impressive shots and reports arrived from the north and then it happened. On Wednesday the predictions came good for the birders on island and the first reports arrived. So on New Years' Day I headed to a roadside apple tree with high hopes. It's always nice to be greeted by another birder on our small local twitches and as I arrived a fellow with a big grin (waxwings do that) told me one bird was still there but had just flown off and he was sure it would return soon. I glanced across at another tree and saw a starling sized silhouette with a crest. The camera confirmed it was what I thought.
A rather easy lifer once the opportunity finally arose. It soon returned to its favoured tree and began tucking into the abandoned apples carpeting the lawn around it. It always saddens me slightly to see so much of a fruit tree's crop not being eaten by the owner but the circumstances rather prove that this can be a fantastic resource for wildlife. These were shot through a gap in a hedge bottom in appalling light so please forgive the lack of quality. I can't believe this was the best I could do with such a beautiful bird at such short range but its true (and everyone else seems to have had the same issue). Hopefully it will stick long enough for me to get there on a sunny day.
Apples: Delicious for us, delicious for visiting Scandanavian waxwings, fieldfares and redwings.
Just with regards to the "waxwing" name, I did get this otherwise disgusting shot which provides a good look at the source of the name; those odd little feather accessories.
I also love the yellow tip to the tail which I didn't really appreciate was so obvious until I saw one in the flesh. It seems ironic that only a week ago I was writing a post about the best bird of 2010 (and the accumulated list of these is now at 10K Birds and rather gripping (in every sense) reading incidentally) but by 10:00am on 1/1/2011 I've already seen a serious contender for the same position for 2011.