Waxwings

It was a privilege to see a flock of waxwings at close quarters late last week.

I first became aware of these beautiful winter visitors as a little girl, when my mum spotted one as it feasted on a red-berried shrub outside our front window. Although I didn’t see that particular waxwing, my mum’s excitement must have transmitted itself to me – and stuck – because it’s always been an ambition of mine to see one for myself.

Twice I’d seen them since then, always at quite a distance, silhouetted against the winter sky, unmistakable with their pickaxe-crested profiles and (what I hear as) metallic calls.

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Until last week. Totally unexpected and utterly amazing! I could tell that the small, light-coloured birds, swooping and then soaring high into the roadside trees, were not usually found in these (urban) parts. Fieldfares, possibly? When I heard that distinctive sound, though, and caught a glimpse of those trademark crests, I realised what was in prospect.

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Fortunately, I was near enough home to rush back for my camera. I began cautiously, snapping away at their lofty perches: an  insurance policy in case they all flew away. Bolder, and having confirmed that they were indeed waxwings, I ventured towards the tree that had attracted them in the first place; whatever it was, it was laden with swags of blazing red berries, although these were diminishing rapidly as they were devoured by the visiting foragers.

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No-one else (apart from one woman who had to dash off) seemed interested, or even to notice them. All the better for my frantic attempts at photography. And for the waxwings themselves, of course.

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I’d never realised how beautiful they were, how their colours were both subtle and bold, how graceful were their movements. Or with what gusto they wolfed down whole berries!

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They moved constantly: one group flying off to be replaced by the next, and, inevitably, this is reflected in the quality of some of the shots. But I’m not making any excuses. This was probably that unrepeatable waxwing sighting I’ve been waiting for all my life. And I feel honoured.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/w/waxwing/

 

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Attic Finds

Part One in a (very) occasional series on objects I find as I carry out the Herculean task of clearing out the attic…

It’s like a furnace up in the loft space today. The hottest day of the year so far and I decided to enter that seldom-explored territory of tarry dust and precarious joists, where forgotten possessions glare balefully from their webs of neglect.

Some cry out to be rescued, though, and vinyl albums perhaps have more reason than most. Consigned to the spidery attic of history as soon as technology tired of them, do they dream of being played again? Do they long to spin for one last time, one final dance on the turntable of time?

Here are three. Donovan, Family, Pentangle and Tchaikovsky.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Pentangle cover seems (to me anyway), to have aged the least, with its plain, uncluttered design and bold colour. Family seem to have fared the worst in terms of their look, but listen to the music: it’s definitely worth it! Donovan is just Donovan – a 60s classic – and that’s meant as a compliment.

However, the show-stopper has to be the fourth: a ‘Swan Lake’ album cover. Startlingly pink, with yellow lettering, and a haughty ballerina. Pure 60s, I thought, until I looked on the reverse side and saw the date: 1959. Still, I’m sure that style boundaries between decades aren’t as rigid as we might think. Or perhaps the date referred to when the sleeve notes were written.

 

I brought them downstairs, cleaned the grime off them and took them outside into the sun to photograph them. Rescued at last! So now, will they ever be played again?

More to follow, I hope.