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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Marshall

Waxwing winter!

This winter I have been watching the Bird Guide pages avidly, following the progress of the spectacular winter migrant the Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) into the UK.

It was 4 years ago (2012) when I last managed to photograph these exotic looking birds in Oxfordshire and I had been looking out for their return every year since. Only in certain years are conditions right for their visit to the UK in large numbers and this year (2016) looks like a perfect one. Cold or poor weather in Northern Europe and Scandinavia plus a particularly good year for berries in the UK means we have been priviliged with their presence in large numbers.

As I have been leading guided trips and one to one phototuition days in Scotland this winter I knew it wouldn't be long before I had the chance to see a flock of these fantastic birds in Aviemore. Here though the birds remained high in the tree tops or dropped down into private gardens and remained difficult to photograph. Back in the Cotswolds for Christmas I watched nervously as reports started coming in that the birds were moving slowly down the country from Cumbria and Northumberland they were now appearing in Lancashire and North Wales.

Finally after Boxing day was over a fantastic looking weather window appeared and getting up early to miss the traffic I drove through fog and icy roads to North Wales and the beautiful village of St Asaph. On arrival I spotted the likely looking Rowan trees and very soon was thrilled to see a flock of these superb birds descending to feed in front of me. The light was perfect and the birds were relatively obliging, flying down for flurries of feeding activity inbetween little old ladies walking their dogs right in front of the trees.

The waxwing is a beautiful and photogenic bird and the trick is to capture them in a fabulous pose as above with wings splayed, showing off the pinky red tips to the wing feathers which give them their name!

These birds are naturally gregarious and its great to try and capture a group or pair of them in action.

I was so pleased with the shots from North Wales and the orange Rowan berries, but watching the forecast and the bird reports I saw the chance to spend the following day in Lancashire near Clitheroe where a flock was visiting a group of Red berried trees, offering a slightly different backdrop which I just didn't want to miss!

Two days of wildlife photography in beautiful conditions, with a rare and exotic subject to photograph! What could be a better end to a wildlife photographers year ! Happy New Year everyone!

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