After the wettest December on record in Ireland, and an unseasonably warm one, the rains of early January have finally given way to good cold clear skies chilled by winds from the Arctic. Although daffodils did bloom, and some snowdrops have already awoken, more sensible crocuses are still lying dormant here in Wicklow and it has become typical January weather. In 1998 there was also a very severe El Nino Effect which brought terrible rains to Europe, but miraculously the Jet Stream was far to the south of Ireland and we were spared. However, this time another severe El Nino was predicted and it hit the island right on the chin, and we got what we missed in the winter of 1997/98. These things do happen. Wicklow, as usual, is well able for floods and has only suffered minor inconveniences in comparison with the rest of Ireland. On New Year’s Day I spotted this beautiful creature in my neighbours, a cock Ring-neck Pheasant.
He is already approaching breeding plumage, and has a habit of calling loudly outside my bedroom window in the early hours of the morning. In the past pheasants would never have been considered ‘garden birds’ but in the last decade, all across Europe, they have started to become so, and they make for a spectacular addition to any garden. Here’s the same bird, but his head is a little blurred as he pecks up small insects and other creatures from the ground.
Many people are reporting a strange and amazing-looking exotic bird in the gardens and parks of Wicklow. However, if you see one, or a flock of them, there’s no need to report it to the zoo as this species, the Bohemian Waxwing, is one of our winter migrants and arrives in both Britain and Ireland when there is severe cold weather on the continent. I first saw a flock of fourteen of these birds in late February 2002, but only today managed to get my first photo of one. Unfortunately the light was very poor, but here in all it’s glory is one of three spectacularly beautiful Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) I saw today, foraging in Newcastle village.
The Bohemian Waxwing is actually a northern species, found across Scandinavia and Siberia, and in North America too. It feeds almost exclusively on berries, which is why it is especially fond of gardens and parks, where shrubs are grown. I think this just proves nature is the greatest show on earth, and it’s completely free.
November is a great month for viewing the foraging behaviour of garden birds because so many leaves have gone from the trees and because the insect population begins to crash as foliage and flowers disappear due to the lower amounts of sunlight and increasing cold. In the video below you can see a Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) very carefully searching leaves for small insects and other goodies. The footage is very slightly out of focus, so apologies for that.