Could Cheshire be in for a viking invasion?
Keen-eyed wildlife watchers have been told to look out for exotic-looking visitors from northern Europe, but not where you might expect.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust says that a struggling autumn crop of berries and beech seeds – sometimes known as ‘mast’ – in places like Sweden and Norway, could force rare feathered travellers to Cheshire’s parks and gardens.
Among them is the striking-looking waxwing, which has a habit of turning up in urban locations like petrol stations, town centres and even school playgrounds.
The starling-sized cream-coloured birds with splashes of yellow and red on their wings and a distinctive crest, fly in to gorge themselves on berries from trees like cotaneaster and rowan, which are often found in towns and cities.
They can arrive in large flocks, often stripping trees in a matter of hours before moving on to dine elsewhere.
There have been dozens of Reports of waxwings hitting the region in recent days, including Knutsford. The waxwings often make landfall in Scottish islands like Shetland and Orkney before working their way south.
Tom Marshall, from Cheshire Wildlife Trust said: “The arrival of waxwings is always exciting. As each autumn and winter is different we never really know how many might visit us in the UK, but there are already plenty of reports this year.
“In an exceptional year it’s called an ‘irruption’ and waxwing flocks can run into dozens or sometimes hundreds where food is available. Anywhere you see trees with bright orange or red berries is a great place to keep an eye out, it could be in the heart of town or even at school.
“As they’re so occupied with feeding, you can often get pretty close and pick out the gorgeous colours on waxwings, who really look like they belong in a rainforest, not chilly snow-covered countries like Sweden!”
The birds are so-called due to the deep red tips on the end of their flight feathers which resembles old-fashioned sealing wax.
Other expected visitors include bramblings, a cousin of the much commoner chaffinch but with a darker head and orange belly. In harsh winters they may even visit garden bird feeders.
Arriving in autumn, waxwings can sometimes stay around in the UK until April in Spring, before heading north again to breed.
You can share your sightings and pictures of waxings on the Cheshire Wildlife Trust Facebook page.