Thursday, 16 February 2017

Chasing Waxwings

My second twitch of 2017 (150 Birds seen)

I've always had a fascinating with Waxwings, ever since first discovering them in my books when I was a younger birder. It's arguably my second favourite UK bird, after the Hoopoe and I've always wanted to see one.

When I was a youngster I would desperately crane my neck skywards whenever I went out bird watching, not realising that both birds are fleeting visitors to the UK and normally seen at very specific times of the year.

The Waxwings were high up in the trees, making photos quite a difficult task.
So when I heard that Waxwings had been spotted a short drive from my house I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to see them. Nomadic by nature, they typically move around in large flocks, breaking up into smaller groups as food becomes more scarce. Annoyingly, the birds where nowhere to be seen the afternoon I had off, so I missed my chance to see them.

As I've been off on holiday this week I decided I was going to head off to Weymouth in search of the Bitterns that had been spotted at Radipole Lake. I changed my mind when I found out that a small group of six Waxwings had been spotted at Corfe Mullen, some thirty minutes from my home.

A half decent shot, took from the other side of a busy road. 
I set off early in the morning (well 8 is early for me) and located the birds relatively easily thanks to great directions from the ever helpful Ian Ballam. There were a small group of photographers there when I arrived, so I quickly set my camera up and waited for the birds to move.

They were flitting between two locations, staying to peck at berries for a few minutes, before heading off to a larger tree. Sadly, the light was atrocious so it was extremely hard to get shots that would do the birds justice.

All the shots were with my 600mm prime lens and 1.4 TC. Expensive, but worth it for getting close.
And they really are quite magnificent to look at. Beautifully coloured and with amazing erect crests, they get their name from the small red marks on their wings that look like candle wax. They have a weird, almost sculpted look to them compared to many other birds, giving them a very unique looking appearance.

I managed to spend 30 minutes with the birds before they flew off. We headed over to a second location where they had been feeding previously, but they were nowhere to be seen. After waiting for nearly two hours, the general thought was that the birds had found a more suitable food source and were feeding there instead.

I love the bottom bird shown here.
I'll try and connect with these birds again this year, but it's been a particularly busy season for them, so it's unclear if we'll see anywhere near as many this coming winter. I'm certainly glad I made the effort to see them, even if my shots weren't the best. 

Oh and it's my 150th bird since starting my blog nearly three years ago, so that's worth celebrating, too.
I wasn't fast enough to get good shots when they were on the berries.
And here's a shot showing off how the Waxwing gets its unusual name.
I've whacked up the vibrancy here, I don't think it ruins the shot too much.