Monday, 28 January 2013

Waxwings - at last !

This Winter has seen a large influx of waxwings to the UK - and I have failed to see any!

After getting home from my River Exe boat trip I checked the Devon Bird News Website to see what was around to help me decide what to do the following day (Saturday 26th) as the weather forecast was good and I had a free day. Reports of waxwings at Heathfield near Stover in Devon had me heading off on the bus on a sunny and calm morning to the Drumbridge roundabout on the A38 from where I could walk to Stover Country Park and the Teigngrace turn-off where the waxwings were sighted.

I started off by having a wander around Stover Country Park, somewhere I have never visited before. It is quite an interesting habitat and I managed some good bird sightings but it was very busy with cyclists, joggers and walkers, a visit on a weekday and early morning would be much better. Despite this I did get some good views of a red head goosander on the main lake amongst the tufted duck and pochard along with 2 great crested grebes (1 in summer plumage), coot, moorhen, mallard, 2 mute swan and 5 cormorants (1 in full summer plumage). I counted 10 snipe roosting in the reeds but there must have been many more out of sight.

Redhead Goosander on Stover Lake

The woodlands held 3 great spotted woodpeckers, 1 of which was seen drumming on a tree stump, nuthatch, jay and coal, blue, long tailed and great tits with at least 2 marsh tits. A feeding flock of around 20 siskins gave good views and a crossbill was heard calling overhead (but not seen).

I headed off towards Heathfield and the Teigngrace turn-off and eventually found my target birds, 8 lovely waxwings perched in a tree by the side of the A38 opposite the tile factory. They were very confiding, giving great views as they sat preening and pooing in the tree for long periods before flying across to the central reservation to gulp down hawthorn berries before flying back to the top of the tree. Occassionally they would fly down to the ground at the bottom of the embankment and out of sight, presumably to have a drink of water, before flying back up in to the tree. It wasn't the best place to view them as the traffic thundered past on the A38 but the birds seemed unperturbed and I watched them for a good hour before I had to head back to the roundabout to catch the bus back to Plymouth. And I had finally seen some waxwings in a year where they have been seen everywhere but where I have been!

 Waxwing in bushes on the central reservation of the A38 in Devon
 Waxwing enjoying the Hawthorn Berries

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