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Waxwings

In various places in Harrogate waxwings have been recorded so it’s well worth keeping an eye open for these delightful birds. Robert Brown contacted me to say there are around 60-80 waxwings in ASDA car park feeding on cotoneaster berries. I duly arrived, with Jackie, suitably armed with camera and binoculars ready for some great sightings. Robert explained how they had been feeding there for around an hour and were only, literally, a few yards away. The problem was that when we arrived they had just gone, not only that but instead of flying up to a tree they had been using for security when humans came too close they had just flown away. You can guess the rest, no waxwings. Well on Saturday morning, February 2, Robert was obviously feeling embarrassed because I received another call from him seeing he had just spotted them again this time outside Bilton Grange School. So off I went again, this time on my own, Jackie had obviously realised the futility of such wild goose chases and declined to join me. I drove up the road, to walk would have just reduced my chances even further and pulled up close to the library just as a flock of around 60 birds flew into a nearby tree. Yes they were waxwings and I did get a few good shots but they were frightened off by a nosey carrion crow and disappeared into the heart of Bilton. However they were re-located later that day by Hilary Cunningham-Atkins and later on Hilary even spotted one from the comfort of her kitchen. Someone else delighted to see waxwings were Kathleen and John Pogson who saw around a dozen, the first they had seen in at least nine years. Ian Law also saw around 18 of these birds near his home on the railway embankment in Starbeck, on January 25. It seems also because there are fewer berries this winter waxwing have reached as far south as Cornwall, not only unusual but great for the Cornish birders. Jackie’s mum’s suburban street in the London borough of Hillingdon has had them and in Flamborough they visited Richard Muir’s garden, who tells me they “took my breath away”. Interestingly they were once referred to as the bohemian chatterer, then, probably due to the red wax like appendage to some features as the waxen chatterer and now, well, we really ought to call them by their posh name the bohemian waxwing, to distinguish them from other waxwings found worldwide, but not in the UK, including the Japanese and cedar waxwings.

Sightings:

Wilko contacted me from Knaresborough, to say “Please find attached a photo of a fieldfare I took at Stockwell allotments on January 22. Winter migrants appear to be thin on the ground and I have just seen my first fieldfare this winter. It has also been quiet in my garden in Knaresborough, I normally have a charm of goldfinch daily and several greenfinch but even these have disappeared. The only birds I have in abundance are up to six blackbirds, one male and five female. They squabble all the time but appear to tolerate each other and feed on apples, I have hung up like Xmas baubles, on a small tree. All these however soon move over when a much larger mistle thrush turns up and wants the apples all to himself. The only other birds I get on a regular basis are a robin, dunnock, blue and coal tits.

Helen Watkinson from Scotton has seen recently in her garden (January 14), “a treecreeper on two days, and a female bullfinch one day. Sometimes a flock of yellowhammers land, and then are not seen again for ages. Where are the greenfinch? I hope they haven’t succumbed to the disease said to be killing them last year. I was woken at 7am the other morning by a screeching barn owl, and, closing the curtains at 5pm, a hooting tawny called! So much for nocturnal, although it was dark. We are lucky to hear owls regularly, and one year observed the nest high in a nearby tree, or at least, the mother feeding the noisy young at dusk. Thank goodness for Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), as those very trees were under threat from a developer, some 12 years ago. I am looking forward to the ‘Big Garden BirdWatch’ when hopefully, I can persuade my 11 year old godson to come and take bird photos with his new camera, and then maybe send some to you.” I agree with Helen that TPOs are vital for our countryside, if you know of any trees worthy of protection then get one placed on the tree, you never know what might await it around the corner. I am also envious of Helen’s owls, I suspect here in Bilton they are also preparing for courtship but I just haven’t ‘manned up’ enough to bear having the windows open in the cold.