Tuesday, 13 November 2012

I spy with my little eye… something beginning with ‘W’

Would it be the white stripe on the back of the speedy Coal tits darting through almost every tree and shrub in my garden just now? …Nope :-)


Would it be the white cheeks of the Coal tits as they briefly slow down before changing direction through the wonderful coral stems of my Acer tree? …Nope :-)


Would it be the white collar of the rather tropical looking Goldfinches that impatiently queue to get a feeder space? …Nope :-)


Would it be the white spots on the back of the black tail of these charming Goldfinches? Lol… you need to be quick to spot them ;-) …Nope :-)


Okay, yes, I’m playing a game with you now… but the ending is good! Through my last six years gardenwatching, I have found spotting and identifying birds in/from our garden great fun. I would definitely recommend this as something for young families especially ahead of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch which takes place during the last weekend in January.

The game I play with my garden visitors is by moving the feeders around from time to time (this reduces the spread of disease below) and in changing the foods I put out depending on the time of year. I have great fun setting new feeding areas up - also as I wait to see who will discover the food first.


I spy with my little eye… something beginning with ‘W’… Window views? Yes… you’re getting warm now ;-)



Spying birds in overlooking garden trees when you don’t have mature trees in your garden can be fun but tricky too (remember they don’t count in the RSPB Birdwatch). These overlooking trees act as a great viewpoint to activity in gardens which will bring birds to your feeders. From my window view, I nearly completely missed seeing the Robin above until it moved its head :-)


I spy with my little eye… something beginning with ‘W’…



A window view... way out into the distance? Oh yes… getting hot now! The tree photo above has been cropped to show two birds spotted on Sunday. This is a very large tree that can be seen from my window – fortunately this one doesn’t overlook my garden! I was also fortunate that I was looking at my window at this particular time :-)


I spy with my little eye… something beginning with ‘W’… Winter visitors? Yes… burning hot now!


Here in the UK, berries in gardens and parks can bring in winter visitors like Redwings and Fieldfares especially when the temperatures drop. The answer to this ‘I Spy’ post is a special Scandinavian winter visitor which has recently arrived in parts of the UK.



On Sunday, I spied with my little eye… something beginning with ‘W’… WAXWINGS!!!!! Okay, so it was only two Waxwings and a distant view at that, but I'm delighted that they have been in my area – even if it’s only been for a short while. I suspect this pair are part of a bigger group nearby somewhere. It is also possible they have just been passing through.

It seems, due to food shortages, every few years this bird will travel away from its normal winter range to the UK and further south into Europe. That's what makes Waxwing sightings sought after in the birding community. Of course, once images of these striking pinkish brown birds with distinctive colour markings appear in local newspapers etc then interest and fascination to see these visitors in gardens and towns spreads.

Above is a cropped, screen grab from the short piece of video footage shown below. It was the head with pointed crest and its size, that I could just make out in the distance, which made me pick up cameras to get images to confirm I was actually seeing Waxwings from my lounge window!


Can you spy with your little eye… a Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) preening in the sunshine high up in a tree in the video below?




I spy with my little eye… something beginning with ‘W’… Winter feeding? Please conintue reading... this game isn't finished yet. There's more Waxwing chat and images to come ;-)

Coming right back to outside my window, also on Sunday, a Blackbird was spotted feasting on berries from my small Cotoneaster tree. I planted this tree especially for the birds and do enjoy seeing them eat the berries. Note the detail in my photo captures where the Blackbird’s tongue can be seen in the first image and the berry gets squished in the second.





Here in the UK, it’s not just berries in gardens and parks that bring in winter visitors like Redwings, Fieldfares and Waxwings to feed. Orchards and gardens with fallen fruit like apples can become invaded by groups of feeding birds too.

Back in 2010, inspired by a blog post with fantastic close-up Waxwing feeding images from the Fair Isle (an island in northern Scotland, lying around halfway between mainland Shetland and the Orkney Islands) I tried a feeding experiment with apples (bought from my local supermarket). I didn’t get lucky – but the fun was in trying.

Through Twitter feeds I read last Saturday, I discovered 2012 is a year that Waxwings were being seen in the UK. Thinking of Tommy’s Fair Isle Blog once again I went shopping for apples as my small offering of berries that the Blackbirds were raiding had no chance of attracting Waxwings to my garden.




Since my first 2010 Waxwings sightings, we have a homemade feeding station that consists of good sized, pruned Rowan branches from a tree in my garden which are bolted to a 4x4 inch post in the ground. I hang a mix of bird feeder types and foods on this natural looking feeding station that is positioned next to an established clump forming bamboo.

Since Saturday, I have cored apples, (with a thin slice off the top) spiked through some of my feeder branches which is seen in my video and image above. Wow… would I love to get images of Waxwings from here!

So how do you know where to look for Waxwings? Well, perhaps taking a scroll through the Twitter feed at @WaxwingsUK might list sightings in your area. Funnily enough Car Parks, where berries may be found, are a common location and City Centres too. The website BIRDNET is also another place that lists sightings that’s worth a look.

Finally, I have kept the very best to last (in my opinion anyway). The video below is really, really worth a look. It is very special. Two years on I’m back looking at Tommy’s Fair Isle blog but this time I’ve a video that he’s taken. You’ve got to see and hear this…




Was that not just brilliant? Did you hear that car alarm like sound? That’s what I thought I was hearing until I looked up to the tree to my sighting of a large group of Waxwings back in 2010. What a surprise I got that day and that’s my tip for locating Waxwings – listen out for them :-)

I wish Tommy could have seen the smile I gave on hearing his video alone. As for seeing Waxwings feeding from his hand…


I spy with my little eye… something beginning with ‘W’… a WISHLIST!!!



This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2012.

8 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is an invasion year here too. I haven't seen Bohemian Waxwings but people that live up north of us are having them and most other finches that aren't always coming down in winter. We stopped to see Evening Grosbeaks yesterday. The first I have seen in about 10 years. Beautiful birds. Lucky you having the waxwings in your garden. I only get Cedar Waxwings. They do a similar little twitter call.

Christina said...

Great post again Shirl! I do enjoy seeing all the birds that visit you. how do you keep preditor birds (like magpies) away or don't they cause a problem with you? Christina

Sue Garrett said...

I was guessing woodpecker - never seen a waxwing though. I think I'll copy your apple spike - what a good idea. I put cut up apple out but the whole once looks interesting.

We too have feeders close to one of our windows and at the moment its the godlfinches that are in abundance.

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

What a sighting! I have never spotted waxwings in my garden. They are very photogenic birds. Great tip about moving the feeder around and changing up the food.

Pat @ Woodlouse House said...

Great video - how amazing would that be! Waxwings are one of my favourites too.

Anna said...

How exciting Shirl :) You might be interested in this link which I read yesterday :

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2012/nov/14/waxwings-winter

Midmarsh John said...

Well written Shirl. Had me glued to the screen right to the end. Lovely to be able to see some of our Winter visitors. The last video is great as is your apple feeder idea. I must try something like that. At the moment I have some apples on top of my fruit cage in the hopes of attracting any passing visitors.

shirl said...

Hello everyone and thanks for all your comments :-)

Lisa, what fun we have the same invasion. Sounds like you had a great sighting there too! I will be very lucky if the Waxwings visit my garden but I was still lucky to see them from afar. I love the look of your Cedar ones :-)

Christina, thank-you, I’ll get to the plants and gardens soon. Magpies flyover in the distance, they have appeared once on the ground when I’ve seen them. I don’t think that they are a problem. Cats can be a problem but I try and keep feeders high. The bird that can be a problem from time to time is the Sparrowhawk. What I try to do is put as many vertical plants and structures near feeders to make the flight path less easy.

Sue, ah… but you were right too! The apples do make for entertaining watching – the birds love them too. Blackbirds, Blue tis, Goldfinches and Blackcaps have all been seen feeding over previous winters :-)

Karin, hello and thanks for popping by! I’ll pop over to see you later. They are photogenic, absolutely. Yep, its fun moving the feeders around and seeing how the birds adapt to different flight paths to them :-)

Pat, thanks – it definitely would be. Truthfully, I don’t expect to see this but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wishing. Good luck with any sightings near you ;-)

Anna, it was, as is the woodpecker visiting just now. Thanks for adding the link. I did see this and should have mentioned it too :-)

John, thank-you, I know I tend to chatter on more than a bit (in comments too!). Good luck with the apples and capturing footage and photos of your shy woodpecker visitor – it’s a challenge that’s for sure. I just got lucky there for ½ a minute :-D