Saturday, 21 January 2017

Waxwings by the A38, January 20th 2017

January 18th was a gorgeous and sunny day but we were committed to family issues including mother in law getting her biopsy and CT scan results and the subsequent bad medical news - this year is really starting to shape up as being worse than last year. At least my mate Mavis got out birding at Bowling Green Marsh today in the lovely light, she is waiting for a hip replacement but got out on a mobility scooter and has sent me a gorgeous photo of a lapwing.

Lapwing, Bowling Green Marsh, courtesy of Mavis

There have been quite a few reports of waxwings in Devon and Cornwall in the past week since my Plymstock dip on January 7th with birds reported in Saltash, Holsworthy, Exeter, Topsham and Dawlish Warren but the report of a small flock at Heathfield was the most interesting to me. Back in 2013 I saw 8 waxwings at Heathfield, my last waxwing sightings, but the surroundings were not ideal as they were feeding on haws, hips and apples on the central reservation of the A38 opposite a tile factory - noisy, smelly, constant disturbance and a little scary - but this was where the waxwings had decided to make their temporary home again.

David very kindly offered to drive me to Heathfield to have a look for them on January 20th and after parking up at nearby Stover we quickly found the birds in the roadside trees being watched by assorted birders. They gave their position away by the lovely trilling calls they were regularly giving and quite audible over the noisy rumblings of the busy traffic along the dual carriageway but were surprisingly easy to overlook perched amongst the tree top branches.




They regularly flew from the trees to the central reservation to feed before returning back to the trees and gave some very nice views in less than ideal conditions although they were always on the move and were quite skittish at times, especially when a large and noisy juggernaut sped by. I managed to count a total of 11 birds as they were often spread out along the verge and it was very lovely to watch them although with all the berries around in Devon at the moment I don't know why they have picked such a noisy and disturbed spot to feed.



 Waxwing - lovely!


We had a walk around Stover Park which was much more peaceful on a sunny and crisp winters day with the lake being mostly frozen over and white frost remaining in patches on the vegetation where the sun hadn't yet reached. On the small patch of open water left on the lake and the canal there were 3 male and 4 female tufted duck and the same of pochard, plenty of mallards, 3 mute swan, a cormorant, moorhens, coot and a pair of mandarin duck.

Mandarin Duck

The lakeside path was closed in part for tree clearance but the tree top walkway was open and there were a pair of marsh tits ( one with a silver ring on its left leg) and a female bullfinch around the feeders with blue, great and coal tits and 6 very chunky looking grey squirrels feeding on the ground underneath them.

 Marsh Tit

Blue Tit

We then headed off to nearby Bovey Tracey for lunch at The Brookside Café which was as good as ever before driving home, I would have liked to have stayed out for longer but had to get back to get ready for a dreaded night shift. It had been a very nice trip out though, any day with waxwings in it is a good day, they are such strange looking birds that don't quite sit in the British winter landscape but always a joy to see (and hear).

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