This is the time for Waxwings in these latitudes. You know they’ll come every year, although you can never be sure when they’ll arrive, and usually they take you by surprise. So also this year.
In mid Oct I was stationed at Hanko for five days, visiting the Bird Observatory on a daily basis. Small troops of Waxwings were passing through, but just in their low tens.
On the 13th I visited the port area in the afternoon, and noticed that the rowan trees were all still full of berries, but no birds in attendance. The wild rowans of the woodlands had been stripped of their berries already long time ago by passing parties of thrushes, and the only berry-carrying trees were in the city centers and the villages. Thought actually of picking some to make some jelly, something very traditional and Nordic to go with game dishes (make your own and try it!), but didn’t do it in the end.
Came back to the same spot 24 hours later to find the trees almost cleared from berries, but with a cloud of 2500 Waxwings whirling about. What a sight! Even locals with no interest in birds normally, went around with their mobile phones taking pictures of the feeding swarms, only an arm’s length away. And the silvery ringing of the nervous hoards filled the air.
I shot Waxwings for two hours in perfect afternoon light, finishing only after sunset at 1807 local time.
At this point there was still some berries in the trees, so thought the birds were going to roost locally to ensure a breakfast next morning before carrying on. So, back again before sunrise (at 8.07 am) to find the same swarm whizzing about, but as soon as the sun was up a 1000 or so climbed high and headed west, never to reappear. They were clearly on the move.
Photographed Waxwings for another two hours, now mostly the flocks rather than close-ups, but the numbers were falling, as group after group took to the air and disappeared southwest over the Baltic. At 10 am. I decided to quit as very few remained.
For sure they will all turn up on the continent within the next few days, as there is nothing left for them here to keep them hanging on.
Keep your eyes open, the Waxwings are coming!

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