Happy New Year!
On New Years Day I’m afraid to say that I barely made it out of the house although from inside the house could happily start my new list with Starling, Blackbird and Herring Gull (some of my favourite birds!).
Since then I have unfortunately been a little unwell, but today managed a great birding trip with my Dad back home. We met at Kirk Hallam Lake after a tip-off about an exciting visitor nearby. We thought we’d play it cool though by having a wander around the lake first. It’s probably not a lake you’d know about or visit unless you lived in the locality, however it was a wonderful asset to the estate it was contained within and the birds were certainly making the most of it. We saw Mute Swans, Mallards, Coots, Goosander, Black-headed Gulls a plenty, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Canada Geese, Blackbirds, a couple of Mistlethrush, Starlings and a Great Tit. Now, it seems that I am lucky when it comes to seeing birds, but even more so is my old man! Dad has always been keen on birds and wildlife but has recently taken a great interest in the field (we call it retirement preparation) and it seems that he just walks into the path of all sorts of glorious birds! As we walked the short distance around the lake we looked from a little bridge down nutbrook stream and my Dad said “looks like Kingfisher country”. We headed on around the lake, I looked back towards the stream and perched on the near-side bank was a heavenly Kingfisher – what a stunning sight! It sat there long enough for me to point it out to Dad and we were only a matter of metres away so no need for binoculars. A brilliant unexpected bonus thanks Dad!
We moved on from the lake to look for the small group of birds we’d heard had dropped in since New Year. I described to Dad where we should be looking and as we drove up the road we were left in no doubt that we were in the right place as the familiar sight of people in dark green clothing and massive telescopic photo lenses came into view. The three people waiting on the brow of the hill (where Lime Tree Rise meets Oliver Road ) confirmed that they had been watching Waxwings just a few moments ago so we had a chat and waited. It wasn’t long before the five targets flew into view, but in a twist of further excitement they were being rapidly pursued by a Sparrowhawk! Wow. The Sparrowhawk didn’t manage to feed this time and the Waxwings were understandably put off landing in the fruit-filled trees nearby. A few moments later I glanced over the bungalows behind us and another raptor flew into view. This time a Peregrine. It zoomed over the estate and down the hill we could see the gulls from the lake take to the air in unison. We didn’t have to wait too long and then the five travellers came into land. They flew right over our heads and into the tree at the left of us. These were the first Waxwings I’ve ever seen and what a fancy bird! The wind ruffled the crests on top of the head to show them in full splendour. The photographers snapped away and me, my Dad and the others who had now joined us gazed on in delight. I am hoping that Mike, one of the phototographers, will send me in a picture!
There was a massive ‘irruption’ of Waxwings last year but probably due to mild conditions and plentiful food in Scandinavia this winter there are much fewer wintering individuals in Britain. It was even reported at the end of 2010 that some of the waxwings that had flown over here and were so hungry that they’d take food offered on the end of a branch by a young boy, a stark contrast to the few visits to the country this year. Perhaps the largest irruption of Waxwings in this country (according to Birds Britannica) was in the winter of 1946/47 with at least 12,500 birds noted! Another interesting thing I picked up from the fabulous Birds Britannica is that their name ‘Bohemian Waxwing’ is infact derived from their exotic and unusual appearance as opposed to their place of origin.
So remember that if you’re getting the January blues then get outside and cheer yourself up with our wonderful wildlife!