After three winters with only very low numbers, there’s a large invasion of Waxwings is taking place this winter. These spectacular pink starling-sized birds with a wacky crest breed in Scandinavia and Siberia, and a few appear in Britain every winter. But every few years they cross the North Sea in their thousands from Scandinavia, usually to escape a failure of the berry crop there. Large numbers appeared in Scotland in late autumn last year, but they have now started to spread south, and are appearing all over the country. There have been several small groups in London, with larger flocks of up to 80 in nearby parts of Essex.
The first ones in Tower Hamlets were found by local birdwatcher Paul Braham in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (see photo left) on 10 January. A small flock of initially nine birds increased to 14 by evening, feeding on Guelder-rose berries behind the pond in Scapyard Meadow. They were not seen the following day, so have presumably moved on in their search for berries. These are the first Waxwings in the borough since the last invasion in February 2013, when up to 41 were present in Mile End Park and a few smaller groups seen elsewhere.
More can be expected, so please keep a lookout. They could turn up in parks, gardens, street trees or anywhere else there are berries for them to eat (supermarket car parks are often a favourite). If you do see Waxwings in Tower Hamlets, please let the Biodiversity Officer know.
Header photo by Jonathan Lethbridge