Waxwings out in force at Howick

A waxwing.
A waxwing.

The birds of November were without doubt the waxwings which arrived in considerable numbers from the beginning of the month.

Waxwings breeds in the far northern coniferous forests of Scandinavia and arrive here in small numbers most years. This year a major invasion seems to have occurred with birds arriving in large numbers throughout the region.

In the first week of the month, 150 waxwings were in the gardens of Howick Hall and on November 6, 24 were feeding on Amble Braid.

In Alnwick, 25 waxwings were feeding in Royal Oak Gardens on November 8, while on November 9, 20 were in Belle Vue Gardens and 26 were in Ratten Row feeding on sorbus berries.

On November 10, 13 waxwings were gorging themselves on a crab apple tree at Riverside, Rothbury and on November 15, 100 birds were in the Whitebeam at South Farm, Craster. There were also flocks of waxwings seen in Berwick, Wooler, Powburn, Hulne Park and on Holy Island as well as several other widespread localities.

Waxwings are the only birds in Europe that feed exclusively on fruit. On a normal day it is estimated that a waxwing can eat up to 1,000 berries, which is twice its body weight, so it is not surprising that a flock can very quickly strip a tree or bush and be ready to move on.

The other Scandinavian visitors, the redwings, were also spotted with a flock of 30 near Hulne Park on November 3.

A new form of avian pox is leaving great tits with coloured tumours which makes them more easily spotted by predators. Readers are asked to report signs of the disease and keep their bird feeders clean.

It has been reported by the RSPB that an estimated 44 million nesting birds have been lost in Britain since 1966.

The house sparrow seems to have been one of the biggest casualties with their population reduced by a half. It is pleasing that they are still locally common such as the 25 in Chapel Lands on November 8. They were also in good numbers on the feeders at Riverside, Rothbury on November 21.

Starlings have seen a reduction of 80 per cent but 50 were a West Chevington on November 1, 50 were at Rugley on November 3, and a further 50 were at Low Steads on November 8.

One bird which seems to be present in higher numbers is the great spotted woodpeckers. They were seen at Rugley on November 3, Belle Vue Gardens on November 13, and Rothbury Riverside on November 21.

There were eight long-tailed tits at Yearle on November 3, and 75 goldfinches fed on thistle seeds at Low Steads on November 8. A grey wagtail was enjoying a new Lisburn Street pond on November17.

Lapwing flocks along the coast included 280 on the Coquet estuary on November 2, 200 were at Boulmer on November 8, and 100 at Little Mill on November 20. There were 400 golden plovers on the Coquet estuary on November 2, and 150 curlew were at Boulmer on November 8. There 200 wigeon on the Coquet estuary on November 2, and 100 teal there on November 5.

Kestrels were seen at 10 localities. A sparrowhawk was at Thirston on November 3, and a buzzard was over Abbeylands on November 11. A tawny owl was at Yearle on November 23.