Back in the winter of 2010 the UK found itself under attack from the Scandinavians. They arrived in their thousands and took up residence in every industrial estate and supermarket car park from the Shetlands right down to our southern coasts. With much of the population focussed on forthcoming festivities the defence of this green and pleasant land fell to the nations birders. Up and down the country small gatherings could be found huddled on street corners while individuals staked out their closest branch of Tesco. I personally found myself in Leeds which, along with some of the least desirable areas of Bradford, made up my own little piece of this war. As the days passed social networks were filled with reports and photographs of those who had been successful. For each hero though came the sorry tale of frozen fingers and empty memory cards. I am not afraid to say that I was one of the latter.

With the arrival of spring the intruding forces beat a hasty retreat, leaving birders everywhere to reminisce and gloat over their spoils of war. A brief resurgence in 2011 barely registered this far west and I was resigned to my fate in the shadow of those more celebrated. That was of course until now. Once more we find ourselves under attack. What started off with a force of over one thousand on the Isle of Skye soon turned into a countrywide invasion. Our nearest reported sightings were in Llanelli but they’d moved on before we got there. Not wanting to miss out on the action a third year running we instead headed east to Cardiff, where finally I got to meet our aggressors face to face.

29050 - Waxwings, Cardiff

I speak of course of Waxwings, easily the most spectacular bird to grace these shores and a species that is high on every birders wish list. What other bird is able to pair the quiff of the century with splashes of brilliant colour in such a pleasing fashion? The individual above was just one of at least 100 Waxwings feeding on berries along Bangor Street in Cardiff. They were pretty flighty and frequently alternated between there and the next street over. Despite that we got some outstanding views and even a few photographs.

29060 - Waxwings, Cardiff
29062 - Waxwings, Cardiff
29057 - Waxwings, Cardiff
29064 - Waxwings, Cardiff

As light levels dropped ever lower we were joined by a Mistle Thrush who briefly tried to assert authority over one of the berry-bearing trees. It was quickly dispatched by several Starlings, swiftly followed by even more Waxwings. At times they were showing down to a couple of metres but all I was able to get were silhouettes. Fortunately for me they have one of the most recognisable shapes in the birding world.

29063 - Waxwings, Cardiff
29056 - Waxwings, Cardiff

So there we have it. I’ve finally left the “not seen a Waxwing club” and have to say I’m pretty chuffed. Definitely a decent way to spend to spend a Sunday afternoon.


Compare the Marsh Tit · December 2, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Congratulations! Aren't they lovely? I saw them today too, on the other side of the UK. Beautiful photos you've taken too.

Laura R · December 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Hi, I was down that way today, might have seen you. I sat and watched them in the trees by the church on Wellfield Road though 🙂

TexWisGirl · December 2, 2012 at 10:14 pm

hooray for the waxwing invasion!

Sharon Whitley · December 3, 2012 at 12:18 am

glad you finally got to see them – I've been hoping to get a 2nd installment but haven't been lucky enough (yet) brilliant photos of beautiful birds

holdingmoments · December 3, 2012 at 11:38 am

If there is one bird guaranteed to cause excitement amongst birders, it's these beauties.
Cracking set of shots Adam; and congratulations on catching up with them.

J · December 3, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Nicely written, and some pretty good shots. Hoping to catch up with them myself this week.

Gillian Olson · December 5, 2012 at 5:30 am

Beautiful birds, a great series.

Sondra · December 6, 2012 at 1:45 am

SO glad you caught up with them…Excellent Captures!!! That type invasion one waits for!!

Adam Tilt · December 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Thanks all for your comments. These are probably my favourite birds of the year.

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