THOUSANDS of brightly coloured waxwings are invading East Lancashire.

More than 2,000 are estimated to have arrived from Scandinavia this month, landing in Scotland and then heading south.

Many have recently been spotted feeding on berries in parts of the Ribble Valley, Blackburn and Samlesbury.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust Reserves Officer for East Lancashire, Phil Dykes, said: “I have been watching waxwings feeding on the rowan in the centre of Barrow village.

“I am assuming that these will have been seen at various locations and it indicates that they are heading from mainland Europe looking for food in the UK.”

Mark Champion, the trust’s project manager said: “It’s another waxwing year, two flocks of around 20 in Horwich and the other in Westleigh, so they are going to be common this winter. Overall we have seen about 100 in Bolton and the same in Orrell, near the Local Nature Reserve, and Wigan.

“Our new nature reserve Brockholes, near Preston, has a flock and they have been seen in Lancaster, Blackpool and Blackburn too.”

Waxwings came over to the UK in 2010 in large numbers because of good breeding years Last year was quiet but they are back this year feeding on berries and moving gradually south.

Experts say that the birds have arrived early so the numbers in the UK could reach more than 5,000 over winter.

Waxwings are about the size of starlings, with red crests, black throats and they look as if they are wearing black masks. They have yellow, red and white streaks on their wings and yellow tails.

Mark added: “They are called waxwings because of a waxy feather in their forewings.”