“SUPERB, SOFT-PLUMAGED, SHAPE-SHIFTING, STARLING-SIZED, SUPERMARKET SOFT-FRUIT-SCOFFERS BY THE SCORE, SOMETIME SOON”

In the current issue of BirdWatching Magazine I came across this item on the Waxwing, one of the “Five To Find in December”:

The anonymously-published text is:

As we say every year, the number of Waxwings in the UK is massively variable from winter to winter. Out Finnish contacts reported, at this summer’s Birdfair, that there appeared to be a shortage of suitable berries in their breeding grounds in the late summer; and that this looked promising for an ‘irruption’ heading our way. So, with luck, we will have these superb, soft-plumaged, shape-shifting, Starling-sized, supermarket soft-fruit-scoffers by the score, sometime soon.

Aside from the alliteration this inspired me to get some about-to-expire soft fruit from a supermarket.

Birdwatch Ireland have a Waxwing page:

Wintering: Winters mainly in southern Scandinavia, with only a few sightings in Ireland every year. Every few years there is a larger invasion into Ireland when the food supplies in their normal winter range is exhausted prematurely. Normally seen in groups of five to fifty birds, but flocks of up to 400 Waxwings have been recorded in Ireland.

Where to See: Waxwings are best looked for at sites with a large number of berry bearing trees, such as Rowan.

Known in Irish as síodeiteach which is literally “silk wing.” I wonder is this a vernacular name or an academically-derived one?

Of course, the Waxwing features in the first line of Nabokov’s ‘Pale Fire’

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