On a wing and a winter prayer

WINTER is a miserable time of the year - but if there is anything to brighten these short dark days, it is the arrival of flocks of waxwings from Scandinavia.

WINTER is a miserable time of the year - but if there is anything to brighten these short dark days, it is the arrival of flocks of waxwings from Scandinavia.

Although what effect the flock had on the television reception at one house in Kesgrave can only be guessed at after 26 gathered on the aerial on Saturday morning!

Waxwings are one of the most attractive birds to visit Britain. A few appear every year - but occasionally when food runs short in Scandinavia huge flocks make their way over the North Sea to feast on Britain's berries.

This year there have many flocks of sightings in the Ipswich area - from Tesco's at Copdock to Wyevale garden centre on the edge of Woodbridge.

Wildlife photographer Steve Plume, a regular contributor to The Evening Star, took the pictures after hearing about the flock through a birdwatchers' website.

He said: “I went along there for a time on Saturday morning, but there was no sign of them so I went away and came back about a couple of hours later.

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“Half an hour after that they all came back - there were about 45 in total, but the maximum that all gathered together on the aerial was 26.

“Waxwings are birds of habit, once they have found somewhere with berries they will tend to keep on returning to it - and they normally fly in reasonably large flocks.”

This year has been good for waxwings in Britain - there has been cold weather in Scandinavia - but the flocks have not been as large as in some previous winters.

“Two or three years ago there was a flock of about 200 birds in the area. There are not as many this time, but a lot of people have seen them,” said Steve.

On Saturday lunchtime a number of birdwatchers made their way to Wilkinson Drive in Kesgrave to see the spectacle.

“The owners of the house didn't come out because I don't think they wanted to disturb the birds - but I would like to send them a copy of one of the pictures.”

Waxwing facts:

Officially they are called Bohemian Waxwings, and are one of the most colourful birds seen in Britain.

They eat berries and will descend on trees or shrubs in the heart of winter when there is no food for them in their native Scandinavia.

Unlike many birds, they are not that shy of humans - they seem quite happy to carry on feeding under the gaze of cameras or binoculars.

They are about the size of Starling - and can turn up in Britain between October and March.

Some years only about 100 are seen in Britain, in others many thousands are recorded in what are known as waxwing irruptions.

Source: RSPB

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