Waxwing lyrical

The past few weeks have been busy, full of murmuring clues to say I’ve nearly finished university, apparently ready to embark on the next chapter of my life. Unfortunately, there has been something quite wrong about February, though. I have spent most of it inside. Many hours have been consumed by my thesis project, hunched over a microscope counting fruit flies, and it would be a severe understatement to say this does not come naturally to me.

I am more at home in a field, covered in mud, probably with some mud on my face too. I did not get covered in mud, but nevertheless I felt like my prayers for a wild afternoon had been answered. On the first day in weeks that I finished labs work before dark, I don’t know what could have highlighted the month more on a stormy day than a visit from the Waxwings.

A Waxwing flock is something that causes quite a stir in the bird world, and actually, it’s fair to say that one will cause quite a stir in the world of normal people too. On social media, through winter, there is a trend of national waxwing news that starts with a frenzy over the first glimpse of a rose, yellow and coral waxed feather. It then trickles down to the odd post, informing locals that there are waxwings nearby, before disappearing for another year with the last waxwing that heads back to Northern Europe.

Until today, I became slightly disinterested in the posts on waxwings, simply because they weren’t anywhere too near me and preferred the feeling of disinterest to envy. This afternoon, however, my attitude towards the winter migrants changed pretty quick, after an email from a lecturer to say the waxwings were at our university.dsc_0089

My heart jumped up to the height of the trees on which they were sat on. Their calls were like a mellowed teachers whistle, tirelessly chirping and twittering to each other as they busied around the trees looking for any morsel that could be stripped from the branches. I watched in awe and the gusting wind seemed quite insignificant. I didn’t care for hurricane Doris – we had waxwings on campus!

One waxwing contorting himself to reach the yummy morsel hiding underneath the branch

After a short while, one bird would flick its tail and dive down onto a lower tree, and the rest would follow in a twittering swarm. They would then flutter around the second, smaller tree for a while, flitting up and down the branches like a flock of oversized Blue tits, before again relocating to the ground.

the flock, high up in the tree
and their off to the next location as quick as the change of the wind

In a similar fashion, one bird would decide it was time to visit the grass for a forage, and so each bird in the flock would abide by the leader’s decision and swoop down to enjoy some berries that had fallen in the wind.

not even time to finish his mouthful before flying back up to the treetops

These birds are something that can never fail to brighten up a stormy winters day, filling it with flurries of joy from October right through until March. It is not long before we say goodbye to them for another summer, as they make their way back up to Northern Europe for the breeding season. Thankfully, before my luck was up for another year I was blessed with a visit from this very special visitor, and a lifetime first for me.


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