I popped out one afternoon last week to visit an industrial estate. A birder going to an industrial estate in January is most likely to mean ‘waxwings’. And that is what it meant on this occasion.
Waxwings has been reported from the Burton Latimer/Barton Seagrave area over the previous few days and when I had finished a walk at Stanwick Lakes the sun was still shining and I thought I’d try my luck for some January waxwings.
It was just a short drive up the A6. I passed Nene Park, the former home of the once-mighty Rushden and Diamonds and now the home of the always feeble Kettering Town FC where a small number of waxwings were briefly seen before Christmas – they left the ground in disappointment perhaps, as I have done on many occasions. Before I got to Finedon a red kite drifted over the road (I didn’t make my target of 250 red kite days last year but I was well over 200 so it was quite fun keeping count). Finedon is the home of the Rev Richard Coles, previously of The Communards, but now a local vicar and BBC Radio 4 broadcaster – I wonder if he has seen any waxwings? Further up the road I passed as closely as you can to the 10 wind turbines which dominate the local landscape, and of which I am very fond, as they turned tirelessly in the breeze generating clean electricity. On the straight wide stretch of road that is essentially the Burton Latimer bypass there was a police speed-camera van on my side of the road looking down the hill and a few hundred yards further on a large pile of flowers marking what I guess was the site of a recent car accident. How sad to lose someone you love at this time of year.
As I reached the roundabout with the A14 at the edge of Kettering I turned off towards Burton Latimer and was wondering where to start my search for waxwings but the birds made it easy – they were in the trees on either side of the road and fly-catching above it. That really was easy!
I drove a little further as there were double yellow lines on either side of the road, went round the nearest roundabout, headed back and pulled off the road. On the edge of the industrial estate, with white, charmless, square industrial units, lorries coming and going, and notices, tall fences and a general air of built-up grot, a large flock of waxwings was moving around in the trees.
I counted 76 birds but there could easily have been more (and who cares really – there were lots?). They were mostly sitting in the tops of alders, ashes and willows. A lot were fly-catching in the very welcome sunshine. I couldn’t see what they were catching, if anything, but the fly-catching showed the birds off well in the sunlight. Mostly though, they sat in flocks in the tops of the trees, occasionally flying out of sight and then reappearing with a berry to eat.
The waxwings sat at the top of the trees in the sunshine and looked lovely. i stood on the pavement and looked up at them. they didn’t seem to mind at all, or even really notice, and I had really good views (and added waxwing to my 2013 year list).
Nobody else was watching these birds and I got a few looks from lorry drivers and others going about their normal business whilst I, strangely it seemed to them it seemed, stared into the tops of trees at some birds. Fair enough! It would only be a wildlife sighting which would get me walking the pavement of the Burton Latimer industrial estate near the Abbey Board and Alpro units between Kettering Road, Polwell Lane and Altiendez Way. Abbey Board seems to be a paper and cardboard manufacturer and Alpro is , I discover, an organic soya retailer – the things you learn through birdwatching! But I can’t find any mention of Altiendez on Google apart from the name of this road – I wonder where the name comes from?
So waxwing visitors from Scandinavia had brought me to a previously unexplored (by me) grotty part of my local area. Visitors attracting visitors.
The waxwings were lovely. They always are. I went back again the other day to try to find them to show my son before he went back to university but I failed. There was sunshine still, and lorries, and grottiness and some fieldfares in the nearby fields but no waxwings. But that unexceptional corner of an unexceptional industrial estate will always mean ‘waxwings’ to me now. As I pass by, down on the A14, that turn-off will always mean ‘waxwings’ to me. Wildlife has the power to change perceptions of life, geography, culture – everything. That grotty part of east Northants has now become ever-special to me.
Get out and see some wildlife today – and as many days as you can. Maybe you don’t even have to go out – enjoy the birds in your garden. I am waiting for the day that waxwings perch in the tree in my or my neighbour’s garden. It would feel like the neighbourhood had been annointed.