Bird Watch: Tracking the flight of the waxwings

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Many thanks to everyone for letting me know about your waxwing sightings.

We have had more sightings than ever before in November but unfortunately the berry crop, especially the favoured ornamental rowans, has not been quite as good as usual and birds quickly moved from site to site.

The largest daily total in this area was on November 17 with 120 around White Lund estate, 24 at Heysham and 147 (carefully counted!) in three flocks on the Marsh estate.

Birds were seen at many other sites at various times during November, including 40 by Morecambe Library for three days and Ingrid Kent’s Horseshoe Corner flock, featured in last week’s Visitor.

The first waxwings to be seen were in relatively balmy conditions in early November during the ‘last chance saloon’ for this year’s crop of flying insects.

The early reports mentioned birds sallying forth from the treetops after these insects, described by one observer as ‘overweight swallows’.

This food supply did not last for very long and plan B was soon very evident as ornamental rowans were rapidly stripped of their remaining berries.

These are often planted around industrial estates.

Bookers cash and carry, Graham’s the builders, the Boot and Shoe public house, Udales and perhaps less helpfully, the crane hire place on White Lund all featured several times on the national pager network and bird-watching websites for a few days until the berries ran out.

So if you want to boost your business with some free advertising every three years or so, plant a few ornamental rowans around your car park!

The urban nosh appears to have run out now and many birds seem to have moved further south.

However, the latest news suggests that up to 200 of the ravenous hordes have homed in on yew berries on the top of Arnside Knott.

Lesser yellowlegs has been described as the across The Pond equivalent of our familiar Redshank.

Every autumn a few are blown across the Atlantic by the remnants of hurricanes.

These usually remain for a few days, before heading south, perhaps to Africa or perhaps even managing to find their way to their intended destination in South America.

However, every year, a very small number decide to stay put and take a chance on a muddy creek or flooded field providing enough sustenance during a British winter.

This winter there are three; one on an obscure estuary near Plymouth, another in a muddy creek in Lincolnshire and the third in the flooded fields and wildfowler’s pools on our own Aldcliffe Marsh.

Amazingly, it is accompanied by a wood sandpiper, a species which should, at this time of year, be in Africa. Let’s hope they both survive the winter.

Spent ages trying to think of a Christmas quiz question that cannot be instantly ‘googled’. I surely won’t be accused of ageism by asking: How many and which bird species can be heard at the end of the Small Faces’ Lazy Sunday Afternoon?”

A mystery book will wing its way to the most convincing answer.