Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Waxwings brighten winter days

c. Shay Connolly

With extremely cold weather on the Continent of Europe, and increasing pressure on food supplies, its no surprise really that an irruptive species like the Waxwing has made it to our shores this winter.

Their favourite food supply is the berries of the Rowan, a common tree species in Fenno-Scandinavia.  If the berry crop fails or, as in this case, is exhausted, the birds.irrupt out of their home territory. 

Arriving in the east of the UK in recent weeks, the birds will quickly locate and strip berry supplies.  They are more likely to be in urban or suburban areas, as here there are many ornamental tree and shrubs, some still with berries.  These berries last through the winter season for more than one reason: firstly they are less palatable to birds and secondly, their are probably fewer birds around urban parks in the autumn , when the rural Rowan crop is stripped by young Blackbirds and the like.

c. Shay Connolly

Ornamental Rowans ,such as the cultivors  Sorbus Joseph Rock and Sorbus vilmorinii are specifically grown to delight gardeners with their showy berry crop, in shades of white, orange and pale pink, rather than attract birds who will strip the native red berries at the first opportunity.  Come late winter though, with fresh arrivals of birds from the north, all bets are off and berries are ruthlessly hounded out by Waxwings and winter thrushes.  

c. Shay Connolly

Looking at the most recent run of records, Lucan in County Dublin has up to 120 Waxwings and smaller flocks have been reported from Belfast and further west with records from Monaghan,  Donegal and Sligo.  They are well worth looking out for, Starling like in silhouette and prone to hanging about telegraph wires when not actually feeding on Cotoneaster or Sorbus

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