Thursday 29th November 2012 - Hartlebury

This afternoon I decided to pop back to Hartlebury to take another look at the Waxwings that I had found on Monday.  The size of the flock had been variable over the previous two days with up to 30 birds present.

On arrival there was a handful of Togs and Birders present but unfortunately no sign of the Waxwings that had disappeared an hour or two before.  Still, I stuck around for a while and enjoyed a good natter with a few familiar faces (Bob H and Stuart A) and a few folk I hadn't spoken with before. 

I must put my hand up though and apologise for my language at times as I did "F & Jeff" a bit when I was told that the Worcestershire ringing group were going to try and catch and ring them in the morning.  Now don't get me wrong I am not anti-ringing and I do believe it has its merits with certain species or if their is good scientific basis for doing so. But to me, disrupting this small flock of Waxwings that has come across from Scandinavia to feed up on our berries because the continental crop failed just seems plain wrong.  Most of the questions regarding this species have already been answered so to me this seems a futile and needless exercise.

Anyway, after being there for about 25 minutes the Waxwings did indeed drop back in. Although only a flock of 12 birds this time.  They perched up in the top of the Rowan tree with the red berries but were actually dropping down onto the adjacent Rowan to feed on the orange berries.  The birds gave us all cracking views and I even managed to real off some video footage this time so it was a more than worthwhile visit.

So there you have it stunning birds and good company...I have had worse birding days!

Waxwings - Hartlebury, 29th November 2012

Click on YouTube logo to enlarge video


  1. Excellent stuff Jason, always a pleasure to see these birds captured so well :-)

  2. Great Waxwings, the video is something else, cheers Jason.

  3. Great shots Jase, what stunning birds they are. I was driving round the island by Webbs Garden Centre the other day when my wife spotted a load of photographers. We turned back and there they were waxwings. Believe it or not, the first we had ever seen.Wow.

  4. Great stuff Jason, good to see the Waxwings back. Hopefully they will remain undisturbed!

  5. Alan - Many thanks mate. These birds are just stunning!

    Bob - Cheers mate, glad you enjoyed the footage

    Mike - That was fortuitous timing indeed. Glad you managed to connect with some. They really are something special

    Phil - Thanks mate. Unfortunately they were ringing them yesterday but only 5 were present and they only managed to catch 2 from what I can gather

  6. Nice one with finding the Waxwings Jason! Excellent images and video, a real treat to see! I am with you on the subject of ringing the waxwings, the poor creatures need to feed up. I am all for ringing albeit the right time, place and species.

    I will have to make my way to Hartlebury soon as I have not found any Waxwings local to me ...yet!

  7. Well done Jason, lovely photos and they really are stunning birds! I enjoyed the video too especially the very close part. There is a good line of Rowans near me which I thought would be a good bet but a check yesterday produced not one berry on them. I wonder if I am destined to miss out on them again like I did the last time.

    I agree with you about the ringing. I sometimes think there is more of it than necessary and it certainly seems a shame to disturb these Winter visitors. I have always had mixed feelings about it, I know it can provide valuable information but it seems so unnatural and always amazes me that the birds don't die of shock at being handled.

  8. I agree with you regarding the ringing , leave them alone unstressed to get on with surviving the Winter,


  9. A misguided and unfortunate idea IMHO to be ringing these, and I say that as a general supporter of ringing and research as well as a BTO member.

  10. Pam - Thanks. They were still present this morning although no sign this afternoon. That said they have been dissappearing on/off throughout the week. I will keep you updated if they are stiil around during this week

    Jan - Keep an eye on those Rowans...I'm sure they will come good eventually! I was watching these every few days for 3 weeks before I finally had Waxwings on them

    Graham - Here, here!

    Mark - a spot on analysis! And I like yourself am also an active BTO member

  11. You really think that we know everything we need to know about Waxwings? Where they go? Where they come from? What causes these invasions? The disturbance caused by ringing would be minimal IMO and much less than photographers flushing them, at least ringing is gaining valuable data to help protect a species like this!

  12. Just catching up mate...after a top weekend. Nice pics & footage.

  13. Tim - If you read my post it says "most" not "all" questions on this species have been answered. And I am in agreement with regards to the disturbance by certain sections of the photographic community.

    But I still maintain that ringing a flock of this small size (5 on the day of ringing) is a futile and pointless exercise. In the end after all that disturbance two were ringed what are the chances of recovery for those 2 birds...very very slim! If it was a more sizeable flock ie 100+ then more would have been ringed and the potetial returns would have been greater. To me, in this case, it just smacks of ringing for ringing's sake just so the ringers/trainees can have a chance to handle, sex and age the said species.

  14. And Tim, as I was the finder of this flock of birds I have the most right to moan about folks behaviour towards them.

    I don't have to put the news out or put it up on my blog but I feel that Waxwings are species to share and be enjoyed by many

  15. The chances of those 2 birds being recovered in the few years they live are negligable, certainly in their homeland. As JK says, you would be much better targeting a larger flock.The ethics and efficacy of disturbing a small winter feeding flock is surely open to question ?

  16. You have to think about things like the ringing scheme on a national basis, the 2 birds ringed here add to an overall national level, so it makes no difference what size of the flock is, afterall this may be the only flock that the ringing group can get permission to ring. The chances of getting a recovery from these 2 birds are just as likley as any other waxwing rung in the UK this winter!

    By putting news out you allow ringing groups like this to come and target the birds, it does not give you an extra right to moan about such activities!

    Did you talk to the ringing group and discuss your concerns on the day?

  17. Tim, I take onboard your comments but we will have to agree to disagree on this issue. I know that I and many others have similar feelings about this instance.

    I have to strongly disagree about you comments about regarding the finding of birds and putting the news out. If people like myself and my peers decided not to put out the news of our finds to news services (local or national)then there would be very few birds for people to twitch. I could quite easily just put my sightings onto Bird Track and to the county recorder but don't when I feel it is of interest to other people who have perhaps never seen one before could go and have a look (there are a lot of casual birders out there who have gone to see these on the back of my blog posts). I dont put it out so that it gives the local ringing groups a heads up.

    And YES IT DOES give the finder the right to moan be it about ringers, togs or birders who disturb the birds. As I say there is no obligation to put the news out and although I havent done so yet, as a non-list chaser I don't give a toss about supression.

    I have been to a number of ringing sessions in the past and know what happens. I have seen very capable ringers that are sympathetic to the birds needs in action (Bert Coleman - long time WMBC ringing secretary). The birds were quickly processed and released with minimal distress. Where as this Worcs ringing group caught a county first in a Barred Warbler, processed it and held it back for a couple of hours for local twitchers to tic on release that isn't on. That bird should have been processed and released straight away.

    There is good and bad in ringing as there is in birding and photograpghy but I don't agree with some of this particular groups questionable actions!

  18. As I've said, I generally support the ethos of ringing. It is however very limited in what data and reliable science can be extrapolated from it, especially in certain birds given their lifespan and remote habitat, where other more advance tracking methods would really give a better chance of data collection.
    The basis of this debate has been the justification, and in each intervention it is perfectly acceptable to question the ethics, likelyhood of benefit, likelyhood of harm/distress ( as with any animal 'experiment', where it is part of the protocol ).
    I would hope these sort of considerations are made before undertaking an ringing session, especially at times when there appears to be an increased potential risk to the birds wellbeing (but as a non ringer I don't know if such a risk assessment is made)
    What I am trying to convey is that I would hope Ringers apply their decision to ring based on protocol and ethical guidelines,and scientific assesment of it's merit in each instance.. and that these are not deviated from for anyone elses benefit other than the birds.
    Finally, If I found a good bird, with who I chose to share it with would be my decision depending on a multitude of variables including site sensitivity, personal trust etc.

  19. I understand putting news out on any local finds and I always do so myself, but this does make the information open to the public and so open to not only twitchers/birders but also ringers.

    I know what you mean about getting annoyed over people when they disturb 'your' finds and I fell out with a set of local birders here in York when I found two Wood Sands on my Uni Campus and they were promptly flushed by the first twitchers, I had a go at them afterwards and relations have been sticky since!

    I agree that certain ringers are more ethical than others when it comes to dealing with birds and incidences like the Barred Warbler should be reported to the BTO, I was unaware that the bird was held for so long. BTO guidelines state that a bird shouldn't be held for more than 30mins after extraction where ever possible.

  20. To be honest if I found a flock on my patch or anywhere else for that matter, and having put the news out, found ringers had turned up unannounced to me and whacked a net up just to get their mits on them i'd be pretty pissed as well! It would be just the same if I found TOGS or birders flushing em! At the very least it would have been common courtesy for the ringing group concerned to contact you directly beforehand as the finder just to make sure you were ok for the ringing to take place. Maybe they didn't because they knew your answer already? Don't get me wrong I'm all for the majority of good solid ringing and good ringers out there, and having been a ringer for a few years in the past feel i'm in a good position to comment on this matter, but for a small minority of ringers it's just a case of getting a ringing tick and nowt about science! There is a lot of superb solid ringing and science into birds and bird movements being done out there at UK Bird Observatories, CES sites around the country etc and there are good and bad ringers out there, but for some sadly it's all about clamping for clamping sakes so they can brag about a ringing tick!

  21. Tim - many thanks for your comments it has been an interesting discussion. I too would have been p***ed off at those twitchers at flushing the birds. I think there is a minority of irresponsible folk in all areas of birding from ringers, to twitchers to Togs...and its the few who spoil it for the many. It does make you question sometimes about what you put out in the public domain. I have always shared bird news and probably always will. To me it's not about getting my name on a find but more giving genuine folks the chance of catching up with and enjoying that species.


  22. Mark - Thanks for your thoughts. I think in many cases a bird's well being is the main consideration of many ringers and they have to train for many years to learn how to sfely extract, handle and process the birds before they can obtain a full licence. But I do feel that one or two then abuse this privelage and don't always do things for the right reasons or by the rules that they should adhere.

    I know what you mean about sharing bird news as I have previously dicussed in my reply to Tim it is a dilema at times. I know after I had the longstaying Black Redstart on my patch 2 years back I had one prat climb the fence and walk round the back of the ruined farm buildings because the bird hadn't been showing and he needed the tick! I have been working Shenstone as my patch for 6 years now and have got to know a number of the landowners/farmers round there but I still wouldn't climb a fence or walk there land without permission. It's about repect. Then there is the possiblity of flushing the bird and causing it distress. No it does make you think twice at times!

  23. Craig - Many thanks for joining in the debate. With your experience of ringing over the years you can also add a balanced perspective on things.

    As for this flock being ringed. I heard second had from a tog who had spoken to one of the ringers the previous day. I then put it through to Birding Today to make folks (pro or anti) know that it would be occuring that day, so people could either see what was going on or choose not to visit that day. It would have been nice to have heard it from the horses mouth though.

    As I have said, I am not anti-ringing myself and remember coming to Bibbys Hollow to watch some of Bert's sessions when you were training under him. The birds were handled with care, no distress, processed and released quickly. And let's be honest, it's fascinating to see a ringed bird on your patch and manage to get the details to send off the details to the BTO to find out that birds history.

    But I do find that this particular group has been questionable at times over the years. The Barred Warbler being one example. Another being the rinnging of the large Redpoll flock at Lineholt 3 winters back during the snow and freezing conditions at a time when both the RSPB and BTO were appealing to folks to feed the birds and not to disturb birds when feeding to help them get through the hard winter. That day 100+ Lesser Polls were rung and funnily enough the next day the flock had gone! The food source was still there and the flock had been present for over two months with Terry H (the finder) putting the news out occasionally! To me the birds should have been left well alone in those harsh conditions!

  24. Holding a ringing permit and being able to handle birds is the greatest privilege in birding Jase, and one that should not be taken lightly or abused. Just because you hold an A permit does not give you the right to just 'rock up' anywhere on a whim and start clamping. Grampian ringing group have been colour-ringing Waxwings around Aberdeen for some years now, in fact most of what we know about there movements during influx years have come from there great work. The ringing of a grand total of 2 Waxwings, presumably just with standard BTO metal rings in this instance is only going to result probably in nil results compared to Colour-ringing and re-sighting results anyway so is pretty pointless in my view. Sounds to me like more a case of opportunistic ringing Waxwing for ringing sake, in this case! As for holding birds for several hours i.e the Grimley barred Warbler just for twitchers to twitch and ringing during prolonged freezing conditions i.e Redpoll at Lineholt, very naughty and down right irresponsible ringing in my view!

  25. Hi Jase,
    Been reading your comments with interest and like a lot of things in life its a question of balance. I agree with what Tim is saying (in terms of the value of ringing data in the round) and with comments relating to this particular group of birds. I don't believe that ringing should take place every time and on every occasion.
    When I saw the 40 or so Waxwings at Webbs on the morning they arrived it was clear they were ravenous and any added disturbance by ringing would simply have caused more stress.
    As it turned out, when I drove past in the afternoon and saw a large group of togs 10 feet away constantly putting the birds up I was pretty pissed off!
    I don't know if there is a code of practice for ringers - I suspect there must be, but there ought to be some common sense and an acknowledgement of the birds welfare before making the decision to ring.

  26. I have to agree with what Craig said regards using colour-rings for species such as these. As well as say it`s down to the factors of weather/available food source in the area. We all know that at this time of year...birds need every opportunity to feed without disturbance from any source.

  27. A quick addendum: I have since been informed by a reliable source that the Barred warbler was only held for just over an hour (not 2 as previously stated). Still too long in my opinion but I apologize for my error with the facts.

    Thanks to all for your comments, thoughts and opinions, it has been an interesting debate. Its good to hear opinions from different perspectives as it builds a better picture and undertsanding for all who may read this thread.

  28. Ringers, regardless of who licenses them do not have a'right' to net and ring birds regardless of what info it might or might not yield. But, as usual, they always justify their actions much as pushy photographers do. I am not anti-ringing, far from it but there is sometimes an attitude that 'we know what we are doing' blah blah. Far better off to ring this species in an irruption year rather then a small local party imo. We know where they come from and where they go back to. Ringing for ringings sake to brighten up a dull day?

    Laurie -

  29. Cheers for sharing your thoughts Laurie.

    I am not going to echo what you have said as I feel that I have more than said my piece on this subject.