A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Waxing lyrical - a Waxwing Winter!

Waxwings; a true herald of winter and one of the most superior birds to grace our shores during the colder months. Providing a bright spark of beauty and elegance that is guaranteed to perk up even the most damp and dark mid-winter days, these charismatic favourites have swept across the nation’s berry bushes in a frantic feeding frenzy akin to a swarm of locusts – no berry has been left unscathed and it seems no town has been without their very own wax-tipped winged wonders.
Waxwing
With spectacular eye patterns to rival the make-up of even the most stylish of Geishas, these glamorous punk-haired visitors seem to time their sporadic stopovers to Britain just right, leaving the perfect gap between invasion years in order to truly make an impact when they arrive.

With a Waxwing irruption of impressive proportions taking place this winter, it was only natural that we would eventually stumble across these splendid Scandinavian visitors for ourselves, and along with going to see several known birds, I was lucky enough to find three different flocks myself over the course of the season.
Waxwing
Waxwing
Having been surprised by our first group whilst walking around Brickfields Pond in Rhyl with Alex just after Christmas, I located further individuals elsewhere in Rhyl a couple of weeks later on the Dyserth Road, followed by a surprising and rather late count of over 50 birds in my hometown of Northwich while walking home from work last Monday.

Hearing their distinctive high pitched tinkle-bell trilling, I was amazed to look up and find a vast flock staring back at me, erupting from the playground trees and swirling overhead in a whirlwind of reds and yellows before disappearing over the nearby buildings. Having been desperately watching out of my garden window every winter in the hopes of spotting this most sought after of visitors joining the usual Redwings and Fieldfares avidly devouring the frost coated apples on the lawn, finding my very own local flock was the next best thing.
Waxwings
Waxwings
The sheer abundance of Waxwings over the past few months has inevitably resulted in fantastic photographic opportunities to capture the incredible beauty of these winter visitors, and the flock in Rhyl proved to be particularly photogenic as they flitted through patches of trees in a nearby housing estate.
Waxwing
With spring marching on and the weather getting decidedly warmer, it’s now only a matter of time before our Scandinavian beauties depart for another couple of years, taking with them their charming wind chime-like trills and flashy wing flicks, leaving a nation of deserted, stripped bare berry bushes in their wake.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Bonaparte's Gull at Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire!

Bonaparte’s Gull is a species that has been a long time coming for my British list, having never gone for the returning Anglesey bird from 2009 to 2011 and with no other tempting individuals turning up nearby in the years since. Therefore, when a 2nd winter bird appeared on Swithland Reservoir in Leicestershire on the Sunday morning it was all systems go in an attempt to finally connect with this dainty trans-Atlantic visitor. 
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Bonaparte's Gull at Swithland Reservoir!
Arriving on Kinchley Lane on the northern edge of the reservoir just after lunch, we were dismayed to learn it had flown off high no more than ten minutes earlier, leaving just a handful of Black-headed Gulls present on the water. Speaking to the assembled birders it came as something of a reassurance that the Bonaparte’s had done this at least three times already during the day - returning back to the reservoir after a period of absence each time - and we hoped it would follow the same pattern this afternoon.  
Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Sure enough, after just over an hour of scanning both the sky and the reservoir from our vantage point of the dam, the gulls slowly started to reappear, singles and pairs of Black-headed Gulls alighting on the water swiftly followed by a large flock consisting of around 50 birds – the Bonaparte’s had to be amongst them surely! Scanning through the newly arrived individuals it wasn’t long until Alex called out that he had it – success and Bonaparte’s in the bag!
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Floating next to the assorted Black-headed Gulls the differences were subtle yet apparent, although without careful scanning and a keen eye, it could easily have been overlooked. Once you’d got your eye in however it was easy to pick out, the slightly smaller and daintier size in comparison to the Black-headed Gulls the main standout feature, along with the thin all black bill and darker grey nape, mantle and chest which all helped to distinguish it.
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Comparison of the smaller Bonaparte's alongside the Black-headed Gulls
Offering distant but satisfactory views through the scope, we fired off a couple of phonescoped record shots and watched on as it paddled around for a good ten minutes or so before departing, flying off over the conifer trees to feed.
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
With no sign the following day or indeed since, it seems we well and truly jammed in on this small American gull, a great little bird to catch up with and refreshing to get one relatively close to home! 

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