I may have got this waxwing thing cracked - maybe.
On New Year's Eve, on the outskirts of Northampton, I saw a flock of 123 waxwings. They were sitting in the top of a tree and small groups would fly off and then they or others would return. People were walking past on the pavement underneath and the waxwings were cool about it. They twittered and burbled in the tree top. Not quite the last birds I saw in 2010 but a good way to end the year.
And then yesterday at Cheltenham racecourse, after the second race (where Oscar Whisky was pretty impressive, and I wished I had backed him but I thought the odds were too short, and, by the way, the ground will be very different at the Festival in March) I saw a distant flock of birds fly to the top of a tall tree. If it hadn't been a waxwing year then I might have assumed that they were starlings, but even at a distance I thought that they seemed 'waxwing possibles'. And they were 14 waxwings - a good racecourse tick, and on a day when I didn't have a bet (and so didn't lose a penny) a good start to the new year.
And this year will see me pass a significant milestone - at the end of March I will have completed 25 years at the RSPB and more than half of that time will have been as Conservation Director. It has been great, and it continues to be great, but I feel it is time to look for new challenges and so I will be leaving the RSPB in April. So there are probably fewer than another 100 more blogs in me on this site!
Some time after Oscar Whisky returns to Cheltenham and the jumping season's traditional end at Sandown at the end of April will see my last blog here. But between now and then there is plenty to write about, plenty of nature conservation to get done and maybe even plenty of waxwings to be seen?
Oh Mark, what a shame you are leaving the RSPB. Two titans will have left in the space of a year, you and Graham Wynne. You will be a very hard act to follow. Good luck in your new venture and perhaps you will join our ranks as a RSPB volunteer.
By the way, talking about seeing things like wax wings have you seen the DVD just out, entitled The unnatural history of the Kakapo? I think you and your RSPB consevation staff should do so, there is a lot of interesting science in it and it is stunning. It can be obtained on line at less than £20 from www.parrots.org/kakapo
I have only just discovered your blog and you are heading off. I wish you well where ever you end up. Don
Well that came as a shock suppose I came to think of you as permanently at RSPB,probably only you and my O H know how much I have enjoyed your blogs and to say I will miss them a understatement.The RSPB will surely have a difficult job replacing you and I am interested what you are going to,whatever it is wish you all the best for it.
Mark, sad to hear of your moving on, but best wishes with whatever to take on next.
I have enjoyed reading your Blogs over the year, all the best for the future.
Happy New 2011 to you
Great news about the sightings of Waxwings in your area - still not been lucky here at all
I also want to wish you the best of luck in what you do in the future, and lots of new challenges for yourself in the world of wildlife.
Hopefully our paths cross once more at the Bird Fair this year 2011
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654