Thursday, December 09, 2010

Now they're everywhere

There had been so may reports of big waxwing flocks in the North this year, that it was only a matter of time before they appeared locally. That was the logic, but it has come as a relief to see that they have now arrived in South Wales, and are being seen at many spots (although not in my immediate vicinity yet). Named for the waxy looking red tips to the secondary wing feathers they are one of those birds that just excite people.

A flock had been reported for several days in Monmouth feeding on what seems to be the tree of choice - a white berried rowan. Setting off in bright sunshine despite the forecast fog all was well until I reached ....... the fog-bound Monmouth. Not too bad, but enough to block the best of the sunlight. The birds were there though, just a bit grey and washed out colour-wise. During the day the sun broke through leading to some quite garish colours, before the evening sun produced a lovely warm glow and the third colour phase of the day.

It's only really in photo's that you see the way birds rotate their necks to twist off the berries.
It wasn't only the waxwings raiding the trees there - mistle and song thrush and blackbirds flitted around too, but they preferred the orange/red berries.

On this shot you can see something evident on some snaps of all the birds - as they put their heads right in among the berries they close their nictitating membranes (basically a third eyelid) to protect their eyes.
On Tuesday I had an appointment in Newport, and given that the retail park where I had seen the birds a couple of weeks ago (flying over) was just 5 minutes away I stuck the camera in the car on the off chance. And bingo. Backgrounds a bit less cluttered than Monmouth as the trees were smaller, and it was possible to make use of the relatively approachable habit of the birds to get some shots in the sun. Only had about 25 minutes (basically my lunch break) but it was enough.
And the closest view of a mistle thrush I'm ever likely to get.

Lots more pictures on the web album HERE

No comments: