Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Invasion

Apologies for the slight lack of blog updates but it has been a busy time as Christmas descends upon us once more.

This winter has seen a huge invasion of Waxwings into the UK due to failure of the berry crop in more northerly latitudes. Literally thousands of birds have descended into the country and currently eating their way southward. I have quite a few waxwing photographs in my library already but they are such photogenic birds they are difficult to resist. The couple of sessions I have had with the birds to date have been brief and local.
Generally the are relatively easy birds to photograph as they are unwary and once they have targeted a particular berry tree will keep returning until every last berry has been consumed. I cannot imagine how many waxwings photographs have found their way on to photographers' memory cards in the UK over the last couple of months but it must run into literally hundreds of thousands. So here is my small contribution.
Typically a flock of Waxwings will find a tall tree to perch in, where they sit filling the air with their wonderful trilling calls, before descending as a group to their target berry tree. They will frenetically feed for a couple of minutes before flying back to the perching tree. The photography sessions therefore tend to have prolonged periods of quiet followed by intense bursts of activity as the birds descend to feed.

One small flock I found were feeding on to some very low Cotonester bushes, having stripped all the nearby rowan trees. It made a nice change to capture the birds with some nicely coloured backgrounds from the foliage behind, rather than against the sky.
As Waxwings really love eating Rowan berries they can often be found in urban areas and retail parks. Urban landscape architects seem to frequently include these trees in the designs to the benefit of both the birds and photographers. A group of photographers surrounding a tree in these  areas always draws in the curiosity of the general public.  These urban areas can also produce some interesting and rather strange coloured backgrounds to some of the photographs due to buildings in the background.
The purple of a Premier Inn sign.
or the red from a drive through KFC.
One of my friends has some interesting photographs of the birds against the orange background of the signs a B&Q DIY store. 

The birds should stay around until the spring before they make their way back northwards. So if you are out shopping over the Christmas break or visiting a retail park it is worth looking in the trees for these winter invaders. To me time spent with these birds in a car park is certainly much more interesting and rewarding than trying to grab a bargain in the post-Christmas sales.

8 comments:

David Alvarez said...

Wow!! very nice photos of a very nice birds!
Amazingly, in the last two weeks, a few waxwings was seen in the north of Spain, when this species is very very rare, with only a couple of observations in the last 20 years.
Curiously, I saw one waxwing today, four hours ago in Asturias, North of Spain (http://naturalezacantabrica.blogspot.com.es/2012/12/ano-de-ampelis.html).

Congratulations for these nice photos.

Dina J said...

These are all so amazing! All of those berry eating shots are a great catch.

holdingmoments said...

Excellent shots of a stunning bird Rich.
I don't know any one who doesn't get a thrill from seeing these beauties.

Robin said...

RIch, wonderful images. The Waxwing is so photogenic!

Nancy J said...

Beautiful photos, Rich, and the city background in those paler shades is truly stunning. Enjoy the photo shoots rather than busy shops and crowds of people in a hurry. Greetings from Jean

Talibra said...

Przepiękne zdjęcia, gratuluję!
Do mnie jemiołuszki nie przyleciały w tym roku.
Pozdrawiam, Wesołych Świąt!

biobabbler said...

Jeepers, those are stunning shots. Gotta love a short depth of field--great effects! =)

Rich Steel said...

Thanks for the comments. There are still quite a lot of waxwings about although what they must be eating remains a mystery as they seem to cleared the UK of berries.

Cheers

Rich

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