It’s been an exciting few days watching the skies across the UK. As we observed radar pictures of thousands of birds suddenly erupting across the North Sea and witnessed huge flocks of redwing and fieldfare over Yorkshire, there was only one explanation; food was running out fast on the continent. Not long after, it was confirmed that indeed, the Russian berry crop had failed. This, coupled with a very successful breeding season (after a long, settled spring and summer) means that resources have run out more quickly than usual.
While we might feel sorry for our winter visitors, there is an upside to this story for us. We not only get to see lots of winter thrushes but there is also the best chance we’ve had in years to get a waxwing invasion. These (usually) sedentary birds have no choice but to move from their continental wintering grounds so, depending on how extensive the berry crop failure is, we’re predicting the highest numbers of waxwings since the winter of 2012/13 when we had over 220 waxwings reported in Woodhouse Square in Leeds. Keep your eyes and ears peeled and don’t forget to take your binoculars on your supermarket trips! Waxwings love berries and most supermarkets landscape their car parks with berberis, rowan, pyracantha or cotoneaster. Swat up on the waxwing calls and you won’t miss them. They’re usually very gregarious and vocalise frequently while feeding and flying.
If it’s swifts that you love, and you also shop online, you can add value to each order and support swift conservation over the winter period. Leeds Swifts has set up an Easyfundraising account so that you can help us to get donations from retailers every time you shop, without it costing you anything. We thought it would be a great time to do this ahead of the festive season. Check out the Leeds Swifts newsletter which gives details about how to do it. Every penny helps us to rehab grounded swifts and create new homes around Leeds.
There’s plenty of places available on classes from now until December to watch birds and learn more about migration so contact me email@example.com and sign up to my events newsletter. Look out for new dates coming up soon for 2023.