Earlier in the week I'd posted a tongue-in-cheek message on the Manchester Birding Forum asking if someone could tell me where the elusive Waxwing would be appearing next in Greater Manchester so that I could be prepared, knowing full well that predicting where some would turn up is nigh on impossible. They definitely like berries and those of the Rowan tree in particular, and they seem to go shopping at a supermarket somewhere at least once a week! But as to where they'll make their next appearance, well it's anyone's guess.
However this week the Waxwing seem to have been spending a lot of time in Horwich near Bolton, and somewhere along Ramsbottom Road more often that not, and so I decided to go and have a look for myself this morning. Before I left I checked the Forum and sure enough there was a sighting here at 9:30am about half an hour before I set off.
When I arrived I met a small party of other birders who had seen them in the trees near the junction of Ramsbottom Road with Victoria Road, but at that moment there were none about. After chatting to a couple of people for details of their sightings today. I set off towards the Leisure Centre but here I only came up with a Thrush and a few Tits in the trees.
So I headed off back down Ramsbottom Road where I could see two other birders looking into the trees. On the way down I met two more people who were looking for them and they asked me if I'd seen them, to which I'd replied, "No not yet, but I'm still hopeful." At this juncture the lady pointed up into a tree at the end of the road and said, "Aren't they the Waxwing?". I looked through my binoculars and replied, "Oh yes" being most embarrassed not to have noticed them, as I thought they were leaves.
I approached the tree slowly and took a few distant photos just in case they flew off. One of the other two birders had a scope whilst the other was just using binoculars. I approached a little closer and took some more shots - the light wasn't very good and I was looking straight into the sky, so the birds were more like silhouettes. And then the whole flock suddenly took off and flew around in formation that could easily have been a flock of starlings.
At first I thought it might have been my movement that had spooked them, but then we noticed a raptor high in the sky above the tree - it was a Kestrel and the Waxwing had obviously seen it. I took several shots of the Waxwing in flight as they passed overhead and then, all too soon, they were gone. Well at least I saw them and got some record shots - another one for the list.
I started talking to the two birders who had been watching them - one of them turned out to be Charlie Owen, a very well known and respected birder round the Leigh and Pennington area. I talked to Charlie about all sorts of things as we walked back up the road towards the Leisure Centre.
He told me about his Canon cameras and lenses (he doesn't do digital you know) and the hide he operates for birders to take closeup pictures of birds such as Jays and Nuthatches. He's a very interesting bloke with a lot of birding experience and I know he is thought of very highly by people such as John Tymon and Dennis Atherton.
Charlie and I then headed back down Ramsbottom Road. We didn't find anymore Waxwing today, but I'm sure they'll still be around for a while and I probably come back next weekend for another look. Nice meeting you Charlie, see you again sometime.