Monday 10 January 2011

Retail therapy

Sunday 9th January 2011.

With the prospect of good light and blue skies this morning, the Admiral and I decided on a trip to Tesco, retail juggernaut and inadvertent wildlife site, though not for provisions, you understand. Specifically, the store located in Bletchley.

The supermarket's car park had become the latest food emporioum of choice for the roving flock of Waxwings that have been in the MK area for several months. Not having bumped into them in huge numbers or even bright sunshine, this was an opportunity not to be missed.

Finding them was reasonably simple, as they were perched in some trees by the fuel station. But the small group of birders amongst the Sunday shoppers were hoping for some berry action, courtesy of the Sorbus trees dotted throughout the car park. These were still laden with red fruit and seemingly irresistible to your average Waxwing.

Hmmm, that's an interesting concept. Is there such a thing as an average Waxwing? They're just so splendid in every department. Beautiful colours, natty crest, cute song and ever so approachable.

By good fortune, one particular line of trees was situated in a less busy part of the car park and presented the best chances of photographic opportunities. A pair of resident Mistle Thrushes were somewhat taken aback at having to share their fruit with the Scandinavian visitors, but they were as helpless as the Saxon monks of a Lindisfarne monastery, in the face of the invading Viking hordes.

The main flock of 200 or so Waxwings broke up into smaller groups, which then repeatedly descended on the berry-laden trees. Their frenzied feeding was not even interrupted by the presence of so many equally-oblivious shoppers, who only seemed to notice the birds when half a dozen cameras were suddenly trained on the fruity feasting.

A few birds were even landing on the ground to gorge on fallen berries, quite unconcerned by the people and cars around them, who themselves were caught up in their own mad dash for provender. However, I would sooner listen to a chorus of Waxwing-y trilling than the sounds of squeaky trolley wheels and impatient shoppers.

After an hour or so, a Kestrel appeared and landed on top of a large lighting gantry in the centre of the car park, causing the Waxwings to temporarily depart. We, too, took this as our cue to move on, after a pleasant morning in the company of these spectacular birds.


holdingmoments said...

I must have left just before you got there.
It was certainly an amazing sight to see, and one I'll always remember.

Imperfect and Tense said...

It was a cracking morning. But I struggle to do "early"!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Beautiful birds, in a large flock, and in a parking lot! I'm assuming this isn't a regular occurence where you are.

Imperfect and Tense said...

You would be correct on all counts, Katie!
The severity of the Winter in North West Europe seems to have driven unusually large numbers of these gorgeous birds to the UK during the last few months. The shrubs and berries on which they like to feed are often planted in supermarket car parks. Every few days they clean out a site and move on to the next. The weekend following my blog, they had moved to the city centre, and the last I heard they had turned up towards the south east of town.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Were these Bohemian waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus)?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Yeah, those are the ones. See also