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Acrobatic Waxwings on a blustery day

They’re back and in large numbers this year!! Wednesday the 25th of October I picked up Paul Hackett to head off to locate some of the first waxwings in the area, just 25 minutes from where I live, perfect. Paul had visited the area in previous years and had a good idea of where to look for them, when they weren’t showing where they had been reported, sure enough, we found them.

Time to set up the scope and try for some photos and video, it was cold blustery, and at times rainy, so for me it wasn’t going to be easy. I realise I am not as quick to get onto the birds as Paul, but with his expert help and guidance, I got quicker, achieving better results as the afternoon went on. In view of the weather, I was quite happy with what I achieved.

We awoke Thursday morning to a much brighter day, we decided to head out again, I invited my friend Linda along to join us, she had seen Waxwings previously, but not had the opportunity to photograph them. We arrived at Buckpool roundabout, near Buckie which is where they had been reported, but no luck they weren’t there, we decided to have a drive around to try and locate them, and bingo we found them, they were down a side street in a tree with no berries on, in a garden, there many people walking up and down all wanting to know what we were looking at, Paul explained the waxwings had traveled here from Scandinavia for the winter, they were feeding on the berries on the Rowan trees, we showed them the images on my phone mounted on the back of the scope, I was using the Kowa universal phone adapter, a brilliant piece of kit. My scope of choice was the Swarovski ATX 95.

All of a sudden the birds lifted from the tree, we decided to try and relocate them, thankfully they’d not gone far, we found them just at the roundabout where they had originally been reported.

A small group of photographers had gathered to get photos too. Amazing numbers of these wonderful birds, still not easy as the weather was slightly more breezy than the previous day, but getting multiple birds on the one branch and then swaying in the wind was incredible, I decided this would really lend itself to filming in slow-mo, at times some of the videos lost focus due to the wind but some I am pleased with. The video in slow-mo, really shows how the birds have to twist the berries to pull them from the stalk. My hard work with Paul was starting to pay off.

Linda was very happy with her afternoon out capturing many images of these wonderful birds, to round off our time success coffee and cake. Whilst having coffee, Paul explained how you could differentiate between the adult and juvenile birds, also between male and female, it will take me quite some time to learn this!!

Leap forward a couple of weeks to Saturday 11th November a large flock of 500+ Waxwings was reported in New Elgin, however, we had work to do at home as we had work starting on the Monday. The weather on Saturday wasn’t great, but the forecast for Sunday was looking better hmmmm, could I be in with a chance to get some better images in better weather? Last year the Waxwings were reported in the same place, I had met up with Paul Hackett, on that occasion, and they were reported in the same area this year. Sunday morning was cold but bright and sunny, a massive 500+ still being reported, after doing a few bits around the house, I decided to head off and see if my luck was in. As I mentioned before I knew the location, so headed off to see if they were there, oh yes definitely there, probably not quite the 500+ that had been reported, but then they had stripped the berries from a lot of the trees, still a few photographers around and again people coming and going, asking what I was watching, such an incredible site such a vast number. I think one of the most incredible things watching these birds is the size of the flocks and the way in which they circle the trees before dropping in on the berries, very much smash and grab, easy to see how the trees are stripped so quickly with the number of birds.

I managed to get some photos and videos I was happy with, in my opinion, sharper than the previous ones.

I am now looking forward to some icy/snowy pictures fingers crossed.

I do love The Highlands for its wildlife scenery and tranquility.

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