Birdwatch shows waxwing numbers taking flight
AN EXPLOSION in sightings of waxwings was recorded during the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017.
Over the last weekend in January, and for the first time including the Monday, more than 3,500 people in Scotland counted 626,184 birds in the 38th year of the survey.
Waxwings are regular visitors to our shores and flock in much higher numbers once every seven or eight years when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia.
Results show that in 2017, 21 times more waxwings were spotted in Scottish gardens than in previous years, suggesting this may have been one of the influx years.
Weather conditions in the run up to Birdwatch this year meant there was also an increase in numbers of other migrant birds such as redwings and fieldfare as the sub-zero temperatures on the continent forced them here in search of a milder winter.
Keith Morton, species policy officer at RSPB Scotland, said: ‘Waxwings are very striking, exotic-looking birds with prominent crests, bandit masks around their eyes and brightly-coloured waxy quills on their wings, the reason for their name.
‘They do visit Scotland most winters but this year around 21 times more waxwings were seen than usually noted in the survey. They were also recorded in far higher number than usual across the rest of the UK and seen as far west as Wales and Northern Ireland. Their distinctive colouring and love for berries make them a great sight to see’
House sparrows remained the most spotted species, as they have been since 2012, with star- lings in second, pushing chaffinches to third, and blackbirds and blue tits rounded off the top five. Schoolchildren got in on the act with the Big Schools Birdwatch survey, which saw more than 6,300 school children spotting birds. Blackbirds remained the most common playground visitor followed by carrion crows and starlings.
For more information about the visit www.rspb.org.uk/ birdwatch.