KEEN-eyed wildlife watchers have been told to look out for exotic-looking birds from northern Europe.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust says that a struggling autumn crop of berries in places like Sweden and Norway has forced feathered travellers to flock south - with increasing reports from across the north west, including Trafford.
Among them is the striking-looking waxwing, which has a habit of turning up in urban locations like petrol stations, town centres, industrial estates and even school playgrounds. The last time the birds arrived in such high numbers was two years ago.
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 'amenity planting' used in towns and cities.
They can arrive in large flocks, often stripping trees in a matter of hours before moving on to dine elsewhere.
The waxwings often make landfall in Scottish islands like Shetland and Orkney before working their way south. Flocks have already been seen in Trafford Park, and Altrincham.
The birds are so-called due to the deep red tips on the end of their flight feathers which resembles old-fashioned sealing wax.
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 pre-occupied with feeding, you can often get pretty close and pick out the distinctive colours on waxwings, who really look like they belong in a rainforest, not chilly snow-covered countries like Sweden”
Arriving in autumn, waxwings can sometimes stay around in the UK until April, before heading north again to breed.