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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.