Sunday, 8 January 2017

Wax returns

It’s a thankless annual chore, but there may be some advantages to filling in tax returns just ahead of January’s deadline. Six years ago this month, just after handing in my tax return, I drove on afterwards to my local patch at Rainham in east London and found Britain’s first Slaty-backed Gull.

One of the two Waxwings getting 2017's garden list off to a flying start.
While I would be lucky to improve on that personal best, yesterday I had another welcome find while sorting out my tax papers. Glancing out of the window from my desk to keep half an eye on the male Blackcap that is intermittently visiting our garden, I glimpsed a distant bird sally almost vertically out of the top of a large tree. No regular garden bird should be behaving like that in north London in January, so I reached for my binoculars and, sure enough, it proved to be a flycatching Waxwing – one of two, no less. (The fact that insects are still on the wing in mid-winter is surely a sign of how mild it is currently).

Waxwings have been slow to reach the south this winter - hopefully these two are a sign of things to come.
The birds were only on view briefly, but I managed to fire off a few quick shots to document the record. Fortunately they returned later on, and since then have been reasonably settled in the vicinity of a fruiting berry tree in a neighbouring road. Waxwings are always noteworthy in southern England, and particularly in the capital – none have been in this area for a few years, but I did have up to 26 around the garden just after Christmas back in 2010. These latest birds were the crowning glory on a garden day list that ended on 27 species, the equal second-highest total I’ve had here in just over 15 years, with other highlights including 2 Fieldfares, 17 Redwings, a pair of Blackcaps and - numerically rarer than Waxwing in my garden in recent years - a single House Sparrow. You can read the full list on eBird.


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