The 25th October will stay in my memory for a long time. I was on Fair Isle, near the end of a long & enjoyable Autumn birding & photography trip with my partner Phil & several birding friends. The winds had been strong Northerly and quite foul for a couple of days but the 25th was cold, bright, sunny & the winds had finally dropped. It was clear from day-break that there were new birds in from the North, most notably Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) , which were heard ‘trilling’ overhead in small groups all over the Island. During the morning with a couple of mist nets open in the Obs plantation, we trapped & ringed over 20 of these gorgeous birds. There were at least 50 individuals seen on Fair Isle during that one day, many coming down to feed on rosehips & a good number of apples (we cleared the shop of all their apples!) we put out for them. The Waxwings were extremely approachable, more so than I had ever witnessed before, we were able to walk right up to them & they seemed totally unfazed by our presence. I had a fantastic time photographing these birds in beautiful light throughout the afternoon – that is until my lens broke, but thats another story! One of my images of two Waxwing on top of a pine tree posted on Birdguides that night later won Birdguides Photo of the Week!
It became clear that these birds would actually take apples from the hand and several patient (& very still !) birders sat outside the Obs bringing Waxwings to apples placed in the palm of their hands – an incredible experience! At the same time as Waxwing madness was taking place at the Observatory, the same was happening at the other end of the Island. Tommy Hyndman, an American Fair Isle resident who lives at the Haa with his family was also tempting Waxwings into his back garden. Tommy & his son Henry put apples out & soon realised it was also possible to hand feed them. Tommy took some super images of Henry hand-feeding Waxwings – 3 on each hand! These pics can be seen on Tommy’s new blog www.fair-isle.blogspot.com please click this link to see these awesome pics! Tommy was also contacted by the BBC Two ‘Autumn Watch’ team! To see some of Tommy’s Fair Isle Waxwing images & a phone interview please watch ‘Autumn Watch Unsprung’ BBC 2 – tonight from 8.30pm………..