Birds feast on Lancashire’s berry harvest

Sighting: A waxwing photographed near Euston Street, Preston
Sighting: A waxwing photographed near Euston Street, Preston
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Birdwatchers are in a flap after rare sightings of waxwings in the city centre.

About 200 of the birds were spotted feeding on berries on land near Euston Street - between Fishergate Hill and Ring Way - this week.

And keen ornithologist David Blackett was on hand to capture them on his camera.

David, 62, from Bankside, Clayton-le-Woods, said it was his first sighting of the birds this year.

But he warned that their appearance was probably due to a poor berry harvest closer to their home in Scandinavia.

He said: “They’ve come here for food. I saw them on the same site a couple of years ago and went down this week on chance and they arrived within minutes.

“They normally migrate south from the Arctic circle to the coast but, unless they run out of food, they don’t necessarily come further south.

“They settled on an area about the size of a football pitch and except for a short time when they were disturbed, stayed there for about two hours.

“It was a beautiful, blue-sky day, but they were still there, in the rain, the next day.”

There are already reports that more than 2,000 of the striking, crested birds have arrived in the UK and are working their way south from Scotland.

According to The Wildlife Trust of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, the North West is seeing a large proportion of these as they pass through.

Mark Champion, the Trust’s Wigan project manager, said: “It’s another waxwing year. Our new nature reserve Brockholes, near Preston, has a flock and they have been seen in Lancaster, Blackpool and Blackpool too.”

Mr Champion said the birds also visited the UK in large numbers in 2010 after a particularly good breeding year.

He said: “The population outstripped berries on the trees. Last year was quiet for the birds, but they’re back this year, feeding on berries and gradually moving south.”

According to experts the birds have arrived in the country early and their numbers could rise to more than 5,000 over the winter.