David Bowie of the Bird World… Coming to a Town near You!

 

I'm standing in Ilkley Town centre on a Saturday afternoon. I have the train station to one side of me and the bus station on the other and I'm carrying a rather large and conspicuous lens around my neck. This is not the kind of situation I envisaged when I began my love affair with wildlife photography.

It seems at the age of thirty five I have finally relinquished any notion of being cool and have plummeted to the lowly ranks of looking like a train and/or bus spotter. But there’s something these passers by, with their quizzical, puzzled and slightly pitying expressions don’t know. They don't realise that the berry laden trees which divide the bus and train station are a prime location for spotting the David Bowie of the Bird World… The Waxwing!

Better looking than any Swedish heart-throb, more awe-inspiring than the Vikings, more unique than Bjork's extraordinary vocals and more compelling than an episode of The Killing (the original one); Waxwings are one of the must-see birds of the British Winter.

Typically these stunning creatures head over to the UK from Scandinavia in order to feast on our berry supplies. Their raids are fast and fleeting, as they smash and grab their way through the British Isles in search of more and more tasty fruit. It's their love of our Winter berries which has led me to wait here, like a gooseberry, while people waiting for their bus or train look at me and my camera in bemusement.

Just as I'm starting to feel I can't take any more of these awkward glances; it happens. Ten to fifteen Waxwings descend on the tree right in front of me, I could almost reach out and hold one. It happens so quickly but it feels like time has slowed down. Everything that surrounds me and the Waxwings fades away and I'm lost in the exquisite beauty of these foreign visitors.

Just as quickly as they arrive, they are gone, off to find their next target. Of course, by now most people have already caught their trains and buses and there’s no-one around to say “See! That’s what I was waiting for! Wasn't that worth looking like a prize plumb for!”. No, to them I will be remembered simply as a train spotter with a rather over-the-top lens.

As it turns out, the boundary between the Bus and Train station was full of a variety of birds. There were Redwing, black birds, Song Thrush and a Wren to name just a few! As I write this, there's a species of bird as unique as David Bowie working their way through the UK's stock of berries. Waxwings tend to be seen in the East of the British Isles between Scotland and East Anglia between October and March. If you're prepared to hang up your cool and stand around in a train station or supermarket car park, you too could witness one of Winter's most sublime visitors...