Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Who's got a Loyalty Card?

My patience ran out today when I heard that there were Waxwings back at Folkestone by the B&Q car-park. I had resolved to wait until I found some in St Margaret's, preferably my garden rather than photograph them somewhere else.

The lure of B&Q proved too much, and I went this morning. When I arrived there was no sign, but after waiting for them to show in the same place as they did two years ago, on Dec 28th 2008, I remembered that, then, they did disappear for periods, before suddenly showing up again. I had a drive round the estate in case they were sitting in a different tree not far away, but no luck. I had almost decided that they must have moved on when they appeared in the same trees that the used before.
The trees on the other side of the road were laden with berries, which I must admit I thought were Rowan. When Steve Coates turned up a few minutes later he told me that they were in fact Whitebeam, another member of the sorbus genus. What ever they are they certainly attract Waxwings! The group which I counted as 23 sat in the tall tree opposite and then suddenly some or all would descend into the berry rich trees opposite.
It doesn't matter which way round they are sitting they are both stunning and instantly recognisable, they just aren't any other birds with that amazing wing pattern and punk crest.

Once in place it was a matter of demolition as berry after berry was consumed. With 23 birds there I don't know how long it will be before the trees are bare!

I imagine to the birds that had already identified this as a good place to stock up, such as this Song Thrush, the Waxwing flock must have been a rather unwelcome intervention.

There were several Blackbirds as well, trying to get their share of the spoils. I didn't actually see any intra-species aggression this time. I have seen a Mistle Thrush defending a large berry bush in Dartford, when it was overwhelmed by about 35 Waxwings. It was totally futile and of course it expended a lot of in effective energy.

This Blue Tit had a look at the goings on but i don't think that these berries would be on it's normal shopping list.

Lars Svensson, in the Collins Bird Guide, says that Waxwings will feed on semi-fermented berries rendering them over the limit for safe flying. It would seem that they have developed very efficient livers to deal with the alcohol and they recover quickly.

Sometimes, as it they needed a they would take just one last berry and then as if they needed a take away, instead of swallowing it they would take it back up to the tall trees where they rested before the next feeding frenzy.

It certainly seems that it is going to be a bumper year for Waxwings, it is always worth keeping an eye out for them. And of course they also have a distinctive pleasant ringing call, that can be heard here. If you find any in St Margaret's please let me know.

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