BIRD watchers from across East Lancashire have been gathering on car park to catch a glimpse of a rare bird.

Four Scandinavian waxwings could be seen on Blackburn’s Weir Street on Tuesday and have been caught on camera over the past few days, feeding on berries.

The birds, which only come to the UK to feed every five years, have also been spotted in Barrow in recent years and only 35 have been seen so far this year across the UK.

The waxwings breed in northern Scandinavia and Russia but, as these areas have severe winters, they migrate west and south to find available supplies of berries.

Waxwings get their name because they have waxy appendages on their wings.

Rawtenstall-based bird watcher Richard Fox said: “If western continental Europe is also gripped by severe weather, or has had a poor crop of berries, waxwings are left with little resort but to cross the North Sea into the UK.

“This past autumn provided a good supply of berries on the continent so it has not yet been necessary for waxwings to make the perilous flight over the sea, hence the count of only 35 birds to date.

“However, if severe weather strikes the continent and the berries become hard to find, a larger number of birds could still turn up here this winter.

“They have caused quite a stir here and they could stay for another two weeks because there is plenty of food for them.

“They have not been spotted in any other location in East Lancashire yet this year and that’s probably because there are not so many of them this time around.”

Winter visitor

  • The waxwing is a plump bird, slightly smaller than a starling.
  • It has a prominent crest, is reddish-brown with a black throat, a small black mask round its eye, yellow and white in the wings and a yellow-tipped tail.
  • It does not breed in the UK, but is a winter visitor when the population on its breeding grounds gets too big for the food available.
  • It breeds in Scandinavia and Russia.
  • It eats berries, particularly rowan and hawthorn, but also cotoneaster and rose.
  • The first British arrivals each winter are usually seen on the east coast from Scotland to East Anglia, but birds move inland in search of food.