A roundabout isn’t a place you would usually associate with nature. And a fairly busy roundabout in congested Sighthill, Edinburgh even less so. But… this is winter, and winter means Waxwings. Well sometimes it does. Last year it didn’t! It was a poor year for waxwings. Too many berries in Scandinavia for them to bother invading our shores in any reasonable numbers. This year there are a few around and I was keen to track them down having not seen them since 2020.
So this is what took me to a roundabout in Edinburgh scanning the trees and bushes. I wasn’t successful and after half an hour of searching I gave up continuing to my usual haunt, Musselburgh. Seeing someone with a full on TV camera, I got chatting to a cameraman filming for BBC Winter Watch. He was filming Redshank but he casually mentioned that he had spent the last couple of days filming Waxwings at a nearby roundabout – rub it in why don’t you.
I spent a couple of hours enjoying the birds of Musselburgh including close-up views of Velvet Scoters and Long-Tailed Ducks. Then joy of joys my phone pings and BirdGuides is telling me that the Waxwings have been seen again at an adjacent roundabout to the one I had just come from. The game is on.
Twenty minutes later I am stood in the middle of a roundabout in Sighthill looking like I had slept the night before with a coat-hanger in my mouth – huge grin on my face. Waxwings baby!
I love this little bird – it looks like it is fully dolled up for a night out on the town. Punk hair do, bold streak of eye-liner, a little bit too much make-up but so skilfully applied who minds.
Now I don’t just love the look of Waxwing, I love their call too. If this isn’t a dose of Christmas cheer what is? It is Santa’s sleigh passing by isn’t it?
The birds kept flying down to the ground to eat berries. One would pluck up courage and then they would all go and before long there were (I think) 23 Waxwings feeding. More eyes to spot danger perhaps a cat, a car or a photographer.
Perhaps more unexpectedly they were also coming down to a wall, landing on the snow and appearing to eat the snow. I wasn’t sure what this behaviour was about but certainly didn’t mind it as it gave me an opportunity to take photos at eye-level with the birds and also experiment with different depth of field. They were constantly moving so often it was hard to get them in focus. The Waxwing gets their name from the colourful wings which look like they have been dipped in candle wax.
I was taking photos of a couple of birds and then the whole flock came down, landing one after the other, jostling for position.
I really do love Waxwing, I think they are my favourite winter migrant. So keep an eye out at roundabouts near you, oh and supermarket carparks too!