Wax Lyrical

I am sitting tucked up in my office, eating lunch, reading a book (a very good book I might add) and occasionally gazing out the window watching the world of Great Yarmouth go by. The hazy sun filters through the dust on the window. It’s the holidays and kids are playing outside, their shouts carry across the hazy sky, it could be the middle of summer. Step outside and a bitter, cold easterly wind quickly reminds you it’s not quite here yet. Little generally happens during these lunch breaks, the office slows down, people head off for lunch. Later, once it is warm I will venture more often out to the beach, but for now I am content to watch from the warmth.

Into the quiet of the lunchtime office a colleague bursts, with one word on his lips. Waxwings. Having braved the cold wind for a stroll, he had picked up these superb winter visitors at the end of the road. It’s getting late for them, they will soon be heading back to Scandinavia to breed. Most years less than 100 head over to the UK. In some years when the winter food source fails, hundreds arrive on our shores in search of food, namely berries. In those years, in Eastern areas, find a rowan or hawthorn bush and you have a great chance of finding waxwings.
Waxwings in Great Yarmouth

Leaving the warm we venture out into the haze, the cold wind scouring our exposed faces. It’s worth it. Two minutes down the road, and at the top of a telegraph pole are the plump silhouettes, with distinctive crest of 13 waxwings. So confiding we walk right up to the pole. They sit, preening, the tinkling bell of their contact call rings out, and is echoed back by the mimicking starlings on roof tops. The subtle beauty of the waxwing is now clear to see, its buffish pinkish plumage with striking black bib and mask, not to mention the bright yellow and red in the wings and tail.

A stunning bird

Within a moment or two, a couple lift off from the pole, rapidly followed by the rest; dropping down to a small spindly tree, its thin branches bending under the weight, before they all rush into a low berry laden bush over a low wall. Here they start shovelling berries into their bills, swallowing them whole. A passerby flushes most of the group out, only one or two are brave enough to stay a little longer, before rejoining their companions in the lofty safety of the tree.

It is tempting to stand and watch all day, and I could, I really could. But work calls and it is time to leave them to their banquet. They’ll stay till their satisfied or the bush is completely stripped, and then head off in search of another, until finally they’ll head for home…


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