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Waxwing Alert

In October 2010 there was the biggest arrival in years of Waxwing in the UK.

Birds flooded in on Sunday 24 and Monday 25 October 2010. On those two days alone, over 2,700 birds were reported in Scotland, with many smaller flocks along the English east coast. The biggest flocks were reported on Tuesday 26 October 2010, with 480 in Pitlochry and 320 in Aberfeldy.

Arran did not miss out in this “invasion”.

At lunch time on Thursday 21 October 2010, five Waxwings were reported at Invercloy in Brodick.  This was the first report. Later that day there were fifteen by Brodick Bowling Green.  On Saturday 23 October 2010 in the afternoon, there was up to thirty Waxwings in the trees of the Royal Hotel Whiting Bay and the adjacent Whiting Bay Primary School. The birds were still around this area on Sunday afternoon. Also, on Sunday afternoon there was a flock of around ten birds in the trees close to Brodick Library, six around the Catacol Bay Hotel and fifty in Kingscross. In some cases, observers were getting within five metres of these very confiding birds.  

On Monday 25 October 2010 reports included; forty in Brodick, twenty over High Kildonan flying west,  thirteen by the lay by with the phone box in Sannox, one in a bus shelter in Sandbraes, thirty by the golf course in Lochranza,  and twenty sitting on a TV aerial in Pirnmill.  Widespread reports continued throughout the week with up to one hundred by the Auchrannie on Saturday 30 October 2010. Throughout that winter sightings continued on Arran up to March.

In 2012 there was another exceptional winter for Waxwing sightings particularly on the east of the island. Groups included 60 Invercloy on 12 November, 40 Lamlash on 15 November, 120 Brodick on 16 November, 530 Cnoc na Dail on 17 November, 50 Kiscadale on 17 November, 100 Merkland on 26 November, 58 Corrie on 3 December and 35 Lochranza on 12 December.
That was ten years ago. Since then, there have been occasional winter records. The last report was one in a garden in Corrie in February 2020. These Nordic nomads are an 'irruptive' species, only arriving in numbers in certain winters, dictated to a large extent by conditions in their native Scandinavia.
What about this year? Signs were good. Bird Guides in October reported “ North-West Europe looks set to enjoy a healthy influx of Waxwings this winter, with large numbers already appearing in southern Scandinavia.  Healthy counts have been reported from many sites in Finland and now Sweden. The first bird of the autumn to be seen in Britain was recorded on Yell, Shetland, on 20 October. A relatively poor berry crop in parts of southern Scandinavia is likely to mean birds continue their westward movement and begin to arrive on British shores in the coming fortnight.”
In November there were records throughout Scotland but mainly in the north and east but did include several records in Ayrshire and in Argyll. Arran? No records …..yet.

Waxwings can be very confiding, allowing a great view of their large crest, pinkish brown body and eponymous waxy wings. Tom McNeish’s photograph captures these stunning birds beautifully. The waxy tips are actually the extended shafts of the feathers, and the number seen will identify the age and sex of the bird, ranging from none on young females to eight on adult males. Listen out for their distinctive trilling call too, sounding oddly reminiscent of "sid-little".

Be prepared for them turning up anywhere where there are trees and bushes with bright red and orange berries even those on ornamental trees.
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