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Brambling and Waxwing Sightings

Some of our wintering birds provide colour and interest for many folk, partially because of their relative rarity, partially because of the fascinating route they must have taken to reach here, frequently involving a flight across the north sea.

Two such our favourites are the waxwing and brambling. We consider that these birds come from Scandinavia but in fact whilst this is probably true waxwing or Bombycilla garrulus have a huge range spanning the northern hemisphere around the globe. Brambling have a similar range but exclude America and their winter range extends much further south including most of Europe, Japan and Korea. Certainly two well travelled birds.

Helen Cook writes, “Today (January 21) on St Johns Drive, Harrogate, two male bramblings feeding on the feeders, this takes my husband’s year list to 100 (species) in 21 days.

Michael Hodgson writes, “Reed buntings male and female, siskins male and female and a brambling. All in my garden the last two days. Great to see some lovely birds.” Michael has also sent me a little owl photo.

Pat Everest of Fearby, fairly near Masham, writes, “I just had to let you know what a lovely surprise I had over the weekend in our garden. A flock of bramblings came along with our usual chaffinch, goldfinch and greenfinch. The garden was alive with them all. The bramblings have such lovely markings, it was a joy to watch. Of course we had our other daily visitors too, too many to mention. I feed them first thing, then go and watch them all while having my breakfast in our conservatory. Our garden is a haven for birds.”

Mark Campey “noticed a flock of waxwings recently, perched on the wires of the telegraph pole on the street where I live (Malden Road, Harrogate). They looked lovely in the afternoon sun and kept swooping down to a cotoneaster bush in someone’s garden which they were rapidly stripping of its berries. It’s the first time I’ve seen any so close to home in winter although my neighbour (who’s a keen birder) has seen them over previous winters.”

Mark Tyler also saw a flock of around 50 waxwing in Killinghall.

Wilko’s “Latest sighting, 15 waxwings on Crossways Drive, Harrogate, 3.00pm today (February 13), feeding on resident’s hedge of red berries. I was at work picking up a customer and we both were so excited to see them, my first waxwings of the year, I presume they are now coming back up the country before going back to Scandinavia? I agree with Wilko that waxwings are indeed returning to their breeding grounds.

Tony Brookes of Old Scriven writes, “On a circular walk from Linton to Sicklinghall today, my group had four separate sightings of red kite but the highlight for me was a flock of 20+ bramblings near the lodge to Wood Hall Hotel, Linton, my first of the winter.”

“Yesterday (February 3) I saw about 30 waxwings feasting on apples near the Co-op in Bilton.”

Jon Dening.


Michael Hodgson reports seeing a white crow in Nidderdale and has sent this lovely photo of a tawny owl.

John Daunt writes, “Further to your last article regarding roe deer, I have seen (and photographed) a couple on the other side of my garden fence on the edge of the Jennyfield estate (Harrogate) adjacent to some woodland (Bluebell Walk). I’ve seen them here before.”

Philip Woffinden tells me, “I read a report suggesting that there were three redhead smew (immature or female ducks) at Hay-a Park on the northern outskirts of Knaresborough and went there this morning (February 4). I had not been there for years and was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of overwintering ducks and geese that there are there at the moment, although no smew were immediately apparent. Eventually, on the south-east leg of the principal lake, I was able to observe some very splendid goldeneye, tufted duck and at the furthest extremity, for which the telescope was useful, a single redhead smew. It was particularly satisfying to be able to encounter such a rare winter visitor virtually on our doorstep.” Smew are unusual visitors to our area and whilst redheads are great a male resplendent in its white plumage is one of the most attractive birds we see, on a par with waxwings and even peacocks. Just to prove it I have included a photo of a pair of males I took.