Wonderful Waxwings at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

This morning while I sat huddled under the duvet,  drinking my tea in bed, contemplating the incredibly thrilling prospects for the day I saw a tweet by Paul Bowerman, a local birding expert, that made my little heart jump and I leapt out of bed, flung on many layers of clothes and begged Brian to come with me to Winterstoke Road to see 24 waxwings in a tree at Easy Fit. Brian found one of his big cameras and off we went. Winterstoke Road is in Bristol, about twenty minutes drive from where we live.

When we got there we drove up and down and there was no Easy Fit. I got my phone out and googled and found there was an Easy Fit in Winterstoke Road in Weston Super Mare, about 12 miles away.

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I looked again at the tweet and realised that the birder’s home patch was in fact Weston Super Mare and even though he comes up to Bristol, well you see which way my thoughts went. LIttle tears of hopelessness came to my eyes. I have been waiting and hoping for another waxwing sighting since I missed seeing the ones in West Shrubbery before Christmas. They have been all over the country but none near enough to get to in a sensible time span.


 “Oh, come on then!” he said, and we were off, speeding down the road to Weston Super Mare.  We drove behind this lovely AA vehicle part of the way, great number plate!

First Glimpse Of the Waxwings

First Glimpse Of the Waxwings

We found the Easy Fit garage and we found the waxwings just where they had said they were!  Brian and I have a thing about birds, we don’t do much birding these days on account of the excitable poodles who have a tendency to bark and chase things, so our birding is more or less on hold, but I do miss it and I do love the excitement of seeing something just a little bit different from time to time.

Suspen... se !!

Suspen… se !!

We last saw waxwings in Bristol a long long time ago, when Brian still took photos on film. They appear every so many years in large numbers in the UK. They come from Scandinavia  and delight many people with their presence and their oh so pretty plumage. To find out more about them click on the link in this paragraph which will take you to the RSPB site.

Feeding Waxwings Brian Kent

Feeding Waxwings

Today was grey and overcast but as we got near the garage we could see them sitting in a tall tree. I squeaked and bounced on my seat!  There were 24 beautiful, red wingtipped, quiffed little birds, unspooked by the traffic rumbling past and perfectly content with their current home near an excellent food supply. They were flying from their tall tree to the other side of the parking lot where there were berry filled bushes, picking a couple and then flying back to the tall tree to sit, rock in the breeze, digest and poo from a great height.

 While we were there we met a great guy called James O’Connell, ornithologist, freelance film maker and passionate birder, making a film for the local news for tonight. He recognised Brian from when Brian used to go birding much more often down on the Somerset Levels. He has also been filming at Steart on the coast near Hinkley Point, where they are making a huge new saltmarsh reserve for wild birds. Here is a link to his new film Steart ‘The Flood’ on You Tube and we will be heading out to Steart again soon one of these days to see how it is all progressing.

Waxwing eating Berries

Waxwings eating berries

Here are some of Brian’s photos of the ‘Easy Fit’ Waxwings. Aren’t they lovely?  Brian is one of the kindest people I know, he put his morning on hold to go out there with me. I could have driven there, but I wouldn’t have managed the photos as you need a decent lens and a good camera to capture these speedy little birds in such poor light. Thank you darling!

Fabulous Flying Waxwings

Fabulous Flying Waxwings


(James O’Connell was taking some footage for the local early evening BBC news on 22nd Feb, if you switch on you might see the waxwings, if they run the story) and if you are near Weston Super Mare, the waxwings might still be there this weekend, so dust off your binoculars and go and see…. 

40 thoughts on “Wonderful Waxwings at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

  1. sallybr

    Your husband is a keeper! But you know that already… what a sweetheart! Beautiful video you linked to…

    Did you know Phil had a job with a scientist over a Summer, many many years ago, bird watching? He is quite passionate about it still, and is pretty good at identifying some species just from the way they fly high above…

    I am afraid to ask the temperature outside as you were looking at the birds… I am shivering already ;-)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think I did know, we did a lot of birding in our ‘courting days’ – in fact our first date was when he asked if I wanted to see nesting grebes on the Levels, we didn’t find them, but we did see a kingfisher. I can identify a certain number of birds I know from the way they move, particularly waterfowl, birders call it the bird’s jizz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jizz_(birding). It’s also how we pick out people we know well in a crowd. Do ask about the temperature. It was hovering around freezing point most of the day and the sun did not come out. :) But I was so happy I didn’t care and I didn’t want to be anywhere else but right there and then…

  2. Misky

    They are so beautiful, Joanna. I’ve never seen this bird before in our area, although I’ve seen them in Denmark at my MIL’s house. Just stunning photos! Thank you for the joy of seeing them.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hard to photograph as they either perch high up or feed very fast before whizzing back over head… I am so glad you enjoyed the post Misky. I am popping over to your blog now to get an update on the works x

      1. Misky

        Photos and update are up now. I was a bit behind schedule this evening; making Dan’s pita bread. Yummy. :)

  3. heidiannie

    OH- beautiful! We have Cedar Waxwings that come through in late spring and love to eat oranges and berries if you put them out for them. They look very like your waxwings and I’m so glad you got to photograph and see them!
    Brian is a great photographer- I love the one with the birds flying!
    Thanks for sharing Joanna!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think they are the same bird Heidi, sometimes called Bohemian waxwings too. They are an irregular visitor here, I would love them to turn up in my garden, just love it :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I do a lot of squeaking and pointing and saying ‘can you get a photo of that one?, while waving my binoculars and jumping up and down… (I am a bit embarassing) How lovely to get them in your garden though!!

  4. roberta4949

    I had a flock once visit my service berry tree, in ohio, they are beatiful and so chattery. my service berry tree however fell over in a storm. it was old and half dead anyway.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Roberta! thanks for commenting! We had a skinny service berry tree in our front garden and it died this winter too. But it fruited in May and it was mostly the blackbirds that ate the fruit. The waxwings only come this far south in England in the winter months.

    1. Joanna Post author

      You need to go and find them Em, soon! Now is a good time for all sorts of migrant birds, still arriving because it is so cold in Northern Europe

  5. hotlyspiced

    I love the images of the waxwings on the berry bush – so pretty. I think this is the first time I’ve seen a waxwing. What a beautiful bird xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks C ! You have so many extraordinarily colourful birds in Australia. I was told that the closest relative of the waxwing is a mynah bird yesterday. xx

  6. Jeannette

    I’ve sent a link to my son in Bath, he is a bird watcher/lover, I’m sure he’ll be interested. I know he has often mentioned the Somerset Levels , a place he has visited. I know he’ll be interested in your report.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Jeannette, I am a very part time bird watcher these days on account of the pesky poodles. I was told there was a pied grebe down at Ham Wall (on the Somerset Levels) yesterday too. I love grebes and I have never seen one of those, but we came home and did the things we had to to do instead.

    1. Joanna Post author

      They don’t look like your typical English bird do they? Oh we did have fun and it is a surprisingly social event Celia, the men from the opposite garage came over and borrowed our binoculars and asked what we were looking at and people turn up with their faces wreathed in smiles to see them.

  7. Ann

    Beautiful birds and beautiful pictures and what a lovely man!
    I came across that “jizz” thing the other day in a murder story re identifying a suspect – funny how one comes across a previously unknown word and then it turns up again soon after.

    1. Joanna Post author

      That would make sense, using the word in that context. I have poor facial recognition, but I can pick out someone from their walk if I know them well. Words are funny like that, the way they pop out at you and then appear everywhere. Glad you liked the pictures Ann :)

  8. cecilia

    wow, stunning, I am deeply impressed. these birds were certainly worth chasing across the countryside for.. just beautiful.. have a lovely day.. c

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Cecilia! It was just a small ‘twitch’ – some people hire helicopters and go off to islands – a small part of me would like to do that, but knows it’s quite crazy! You too, have a lovely day xx

  9. Claire @ Claire K Creations

    Wow they’re beautiful aren’t they? Love the photo of the one with a berry in his mouth. He looks like he’s been caught doing something naughty.

    1. Joanna Post author

      They will probably strip those bushes over the next couple of days and then move on to look for more. Glad you like the photos, they are best zoomed in on as the photos are a bit busy with detail, but it gives a good idea of what they are like :)

  10. dragonsilk

    Love your enthusiasm,so great to take the chance to see these gorgeous birds -one day I hope to see them too-beautiful pictures to hold those memories close.Its wonderful to have a partner like Brian who will make these events possible/special :) I have a Pete who does the same for me!

    1. Joanna Post author

      What a nice thing to say, thank you! Last year when I finally saw the bitterns down on the Levels, I got so overexcited that I threw my new camera in the air (oops). We drove around one Sunday in Bristol looking for a supermarket that was supposed to have them in their trees, only identified as a Tesco, we couldn’t figure out which one it was and we never found them that day. They seem to be fond of a combination of tall trees to sit in and berries to swoop down and feed on. I am not sure where you live but there are still lots around in the UK.

  11. thefoodsage

    What gorgeous birds. And good on you for checking your Twitter feed in bed, with your cup of tea! I particularly like the last shot, of a rather proud looking waxwing and another in flight. Well captured.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Heh! I shouldn’t be looking at Twitter in the morning at all, but I am glad I did. Thanks for your lovely comment, I will show them all to Brian.

  12. Jan

    Such beautiful photos, isn’t it wonderful to have a partner who shares and indulges your own pleasures – and it’s such a lovely thing that people who might ordinarily be reserved would join in the pleasure of seeing something so comparatively simple as a bird and take a smile away with them. I still find it such a novelty to see parrots up close and just the other morning we saw a flock of cockatoos on a nearby tree which made it look like snow had fallen.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thankyou Jan. It is an uncomplicated pleasure in mamy ways, a being in the moment time.I was looking through the photos again last night and realised that the birds with their heads up ard the ones I have cropped to show you here are the guard birds, surrounding them are the rest of the flock, mostly blurred, heads down grabbing a berry; they must take it in turns on each feeding pass.

      I also reflected on the fact that for many farmers, particularly of fruit and vegetable crops, flocks of birds, can strip a crop in a morning. I read a blogpost only this week by an Austalian small grower of how a flock of cockatoos had taken everything. I have had to shoo the wood pigeons from the last of my sprouts and we have now picked the last few. Xx Jo

  13. Melanie

    Awesome! I love Brian’s pics of these birds. How sweet of him to go out with you in the cold in search of these. D and I love birding too. I would have given anything to see these with you, but at least I can look at these wonderful photos.

  14. Sincerely, Emily

    Oh they are such a beautiful bird. They always look so sleek and smooth to me and their marking as amazing. They almost look painted to me. Brian got some great photos. I am so so glad you both were able to see them. What a treat!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I keep seeing more tweets saying they are around in Bristol still. I guess the cold weather and the winds are not encouraging them to return home as yet. At the moment we have one resident blackcap in the garden along with the regulars, the jackdaws that nest in the chimneys across the way have mastered the art of hanging on my feeders, very agile big birds. It is a hard time for the little birds as they should be nesting and laying eggs. I think we will have a big drop in bird population this year on account of the cold weather.

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