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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 09:03 GMT
Colourful visitors flock to Wales
Waxwings (pic courtesy of Paul Roberts - Glamorgan Bird Club)
The colourful birds have been spotted in large numbers
Huge flocks of colourful birds from Siberia and Scandinavia have been spotted in south Wales.

Birdwatchers have reported many sightings of the Russian waxwing across the area, particularly in Monmouthshire.

Waxwings nest in remote parts of northern Europe, including Siberia, where they rarely see humans.

Food shortages in their usual wintering grounds occasionally drive the birds across the sea to the UK.

Conservationists have described it as a bumper year for this "rare phenomenon".

They normally flock in much smaller groups - but this year it has been amazing
Ian Smith, head warden

A count on Wednesday showed 161 birds spotted in one site in Monmouthshire alone, the biggest sighting of the brightly-coloured birds in the area for more several decades.

The birds have been seen stripping berries from trees and bushes.

Ian Smith, head warden of Monmouthshire Countryside Service, said seeing the birds in such large numbers was very unusual.

"The last time I saw one in Monmouthshire was about 10 years ago - they are very unpredictable and you can never tell when they are next going to return to an area," he said.

"They normally flock in much smaller groups - but this year it has been amazing."

Distinctive plumage

He said 161 waxwings were counted on one tree alone on Wednesday.

Mr Smith added: "They like to feed on berries and a lot of berried trees are planted in supermarket car parks so they are gathering there, stripping the fruit off the trees and then finding somewhere else to go.

"It is a real sight to see and people should really try and see them if they can because who knows when the will next be back."

The birds are distinctive for their brightly-coloured plumage and acrobatic feeding habits among the branches of berry-bearing trees - although against a skyline, they can resemble a flock of starlings.

A spokesman for the RSPB said that although it was not that unusual to see the birds in south Wales, the huge numbers spotted this year was exceptional.

"It has been a bumper year for them - it is a real spectacle," the RSPB said.




SEE ALSO:
Birds 'come in from the cold'
11 Nov 04 |  Northern Ireland
Siberian bird sightings reported
07 Nov 04 |  England
Waxwings flock to the UK
27 Oct 03 |  England


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