As a child, when I first got into birds and found myself trawling through the countless books I'd either borrowed from the library or been gifted, there were some species that jumped off the page and had me in awe of how they looked. These birds had some mystical quality that had me imagining what it would feel like to see them in the flesh. A few examples included golden eagle, hoopoe, kingfisher, golden oriole, green woodpecker, owls of all shapes and sizes, and the waxwing. The latter is a winter visitor to our shores, with flocks of them over-wintering in the UK, where they are infamous for appearing in supermarket car parks where one of their favourite food sources, the rowan berry, can be found in copious amounts on the decorative rowan trees.
I've seen waxwings twice before; both times in Gloucestershire and the latter a self-found flock. Unfortunately, my timing has always been poor so I've not really had a decent crack at getting them on camera. A solitary bird was reported in Worcestershire at the start of March but I paid no attention to it as assumed it would be a bit of a trek and with time at such a premium these days, I gave it no further thought. I later found out that it was only just over the border and not too far at all from home so I kept an eye on sightings and after seeing some fantastic images of it online, my interest was piqued.
On a Friday afternoon, the weather was looking pretty decent and with the Waxwing still present, I decided to rush up after work in the hope it was still around and, ideally, feeding. Traffic was awful and it took a lot longer to arrive than expected but the light was still okay so I hurriedly parked up and made my way towards the level crossing, next to which is a single rowan tree on which the waxwing had been feeding. I couldn't really believe I was in the right place given the trees proximity to the train tracks and main road. A fellow photographer kindly shared the good news that the waxwing was still present and enjoying the berries on offer and I didn't have to wait long before it dropped down from a nearby tree and landed no more than 15 feet away. Wow! It was in a pretty good position so I began taking photos, sure to check settings between shots. I was on site for just over an hour and had an absolute blast. Watching a bird like this go about its business with not a care in the world is always a treat, so for it to be one of my favourite birds was really quite special.
As usual with photography, there is always something that can be improved upon, and in this case it was the lack of blue sky. Saying that though, given the mad dash I had no right to complain and was just pleased that the Waxwing was present and affording such amazing views. Getting to spend time at such close quarters with such a stunning bird happens rarely so I made the most of just being there. Something that isn't captured in an image is the call which is something else I absolutely love about these birds.
A few days later and (at the time) rather annoyingly, I was wide awake at just gone 6am and simply couldn't get back to sleep. I had a very busy day ahead but didn't want to get out of bed for chores so had a peek outside to see what the weather was doing. The heavy rain and wind that had woken me earlier in the night was nowhere to be seen, with almost entirely clear sky all around. I decided on a spontaneous return to the waxwing, assuming it would still be present, so before sunrise I was in the car and heading North in the hope that the blue skies held. I wouldn't have too long to spend on site so everything was crossed for some luck. There wasn't a soul to be seen when I arrived so I parked up and again headed to the the favoured tree. After 15 minutes, mild panic was beginning to set in. Where was the waxwing?! Surely it hadn't moved on? I then heard the tell-tale trill before seeing anything and the relief was palpable as the waxwing came swooping in from behind me and landed right in front of me. Again, not a single care given for the fact that I was present and it soon began gorging on the remaining berries. I had it all to myself for a good hour with a visit every 10 minutes or so in some fabulous light.
On one occasion, it flew off to a small ash tree on the other side of the road and was nicely silhouetted by the sun behind it so I got all arty for something a little different.
Before long it was back again and I'd now been joined by a few more people, all enthralled by this lovely winter visitor.
When it comes to headshots, I just can't help myself and to have a waxwing so close, it was impossible not to go in for a tighter view. I simply cannot express how much I love these birds and the time spent with this particular one will live with me for a very long time indeed.
As always, thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment. It's always good to know people actually read my ramblings!
Keywords: Bird, Bird Photography, Birds, Bohemian, Migrant, Nature, Photography, Waxwing, Wildlife, Winter
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