At 9am on the 22 December, the phone rings and the excited voice of John Bloomfield says “There’s a Waxwing feeding on the rowan tree opposite my house in King’s Orchard”. Unfortunately it didn’t stay long, by the time I arrived it had gone. However, on the 17th I had watched 6 Waxwings feeding on rowan berries by Waitrose car park in Wallingford and flocks of between 12 and 24 were observed in Wallingford between the 17 December and Christmas Eve morning, but none have been seen since. There were other flocks in the area, 20 birds sighted in Didcot and 25 in Abingdon. This was the pattern of sightings of Waxwings over many areas of the UK, with the largest flock of 800 birds being recorded in Kent.
This year we are having a Waxwing eruption. Every year a few hundred of these birds come from Scandinavia and Russia but when their food supply is scarce and ours is plentiful many thousands come to the UK in late autumn and winter. The last eruption was during the winter of 2004/5 when I watched 160 birds feeding on rowans in the central car park in Henley. We have to thank the landscapers of these car parks for planting rowans and making bird watching easier!! Ron Wood tells me that many years ago he took school children to see Waxwings feeding nearby. The Waxwing is a beautiful bird, starling size, pinky and black in colour with a prominent crest and yellow and red markings on its wings and tail.
During the recent bad weather the usual flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings moved in feeding on fallen apples and berries. I watched 300 Redwing on 8 January near the pavilion and on 9 January I had the first Black-cap in my garden; others have been reported in the village. Overwintering Blackcaps come from Germany but Blackcaps that have bred here in the summer migrate to Africa.
Another winter visitor is the Brambling, I watched them as part of a mixed flock of birds, including Linnets, Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches, feeding on weed seeds at Severalls Farm. Siskin, Redpoll and Chiffchaff may all be seen during hard weather and were seen in the village during last January’s snows. My highlight then was a Little Egret in my stream, next to the Village Hall.
A return visit would be most welcome!!
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