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Waxwings in Dalston November 2008





Waxwings in Dalston - November 2008

Here are some lovely pictures taken by David Hickson in late November 2008, together with his own notes about our hungry visitors.

Waxwings are rare visitors from Northern Scandinavia/Siberia where they live in theTaiga (coniferous forests). After a successful breeding year including a good year for winter berries in Scandinavia, the breeding numbers in the following year is high. If in the autumn of this year the Scandinavian berry crop is poor with insufficient food for all of the birds then they will migrate, often in vast numbers. During these eruption years they often visit Britain during November and December in search of rowan berries which is their preferred food. November 2004 was the last major eruption and there were up to 1000 birds around the Dalston Schools where many rowan trees have been planted . They will also feed on hawthorn and rosehips.

There were 107 waxwings at St Michaels School Dalston on 27th November 2008 and this is part of the second largest eruption into Cumbria in the past 40 or more years. Eruptions of waxwings normally occurs every 10 years or so, but climate change may well be increasing this frequency

The rowan trees around the school are providing an important food source for many other winter visitors including scandinavian blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares.

Click pictures to view full size
Waxwings are about the size of a starling and are voracious feeders.
At the school the birds would often pluck a berry from the rowan tree and fly back to the taller trees across the road.
The rowan berries at the school are larger than normal and the birds had a problem swallowing them. It took around 10 days before they had eaten all of the berries near the school.
They spent a good part of each day perched in the trees opposite St Michaels school, but were also seen several times near the building society. In the trees they emit a very distinctive high pitched trill.
Distinctive red tips on some of the wing feathers looks like drops of sealing wax and this has given the birds their name.
The largest flock size at the school was of 107 birds. Count the birds in the photo and see if you agree with my total.
St Michaels School, Dalston welcomes our Scandinavian visitors !
When the birds are feeding on berries they need to drink water regularly and will drink from even the smallest puddles on the pavement.
Punk rockers rule OK !
Some of the birds were caught in nets and banded with a ring containing a unique number in order to study their migratory patterns, lifespan and population numbers.
A close view of the birds shows how beautiful they are.
Blackbirds also migrate from scandinavia in large numbers during the winter. This is a male on rowan berries.
This female blackbird is feeding on hawthorn berries, another favourite winter food.
Scandinavian redwings also arrive in large flocks. It is no wonder that the berries do not last very long!
Caption When the berries are becoming very scarce the waxwings may move onto apples. This photo was taken on December 2nd 2008 . The apples had been frozen for several days which may soften them up. Keep your eyes open !!