Saturday, 23 February 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 8 - the catch

I was up early this morning so I could get a net up in the garden just before first light. The weather was perfect with full cloud cover and no wind. I was hoping to catch some Waxwings but knew I was likely to get a good catch of Siskins whether the Waxwings turned up our not. I was joined by John G but he could only stay for an hour or so as he had to go to work.

With the net up we retired to the house for a coffee and waited for the birds to arrive. As the sky brightened the first Siskins started to gather in the tops of the trees across the road from the garden. The Waxwings usually appear about 10 minutes after the first Siskins but 20 minutes came and went and no Waxwings. Around 30 Siskins had gathered by now and had started to come down to the feeders. Birds soon started going into the net and we caught 14 Siskins within the first 20 minutes.

I had almost given up hope of the Waxwings arriving but then heard the distinctive trilling calls of a flock coming our way. There were about 24 in the flock and they landed in the trees opposite and eyed up the apples in the garden. They sat there for over 10 minutes but then flushed for some reason and moved to another tree much further away. Whatever had flushed them had also flushed more Siskins into the net so we went out and quickly extracted them.

A little while later the Waxwings flew across to the tree in the garden and worked there way down to feast on the apples. There was more activity in the street by this time and the birds flushed after only feeding for about 10 minutes. One Waxwing hit the net but bounced out. The Waxwings moved off at this point so it didn't look like I would catch any after all. More Siskins had been caught and we took the opportunity to extract them but John had to go off to work at this point. This catch brought the Siskin total to 19 and it was only 08:30.

I grabbed another coffee while keeping an eye on the net. It wasn't long before a few more birds were caught and this time there was a real garden rarity in the net, not a Waxwing but a Willow Tit. I decided to furl the net at this point and content myself with the good catch of Siskins. Net closed I walked round to the back of the house to ring the birds that I had just extracted only to see the flock of Waxwings coming back. I dashed back to the net and unfurled it with the Waxwings watching me from the trees across the road.

Garden ringing site
The Waxwings came into the garden almost immediately and started feeding. I ringed the 4 Siskins and Willow Tit that I had just caught while trying to keep an eye on the activity in the front garden. It wasn't long before the first Waxwing was in the net and then another two. The Waxwings carried on feeding for the next couple of hours and only moved to the trees across the road when I went round to take birds out of the net. By late morning I had caught 11 Waxwings. Unfortunately I didn't catch the foreign ringed bird but I can't complain.

adult female Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

First winter male Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
Ringing totals for 23/02/13 with retraps in brackets.
Siskin 27 (9)
Waxwing 11
Starling 3
Goldfinch 1
Long-tailed Tit 1
Willow Tit 1
Total 44 (+9 retraps)

Whilst the ringing of 11 Waxwings was a first for the garden so was the single Willow Tit. The total of 36 Siskins caught is also a record catch for the garden and brings the total ringed so far this month to 64 which is more than I have ever ringed in the garden previously. The Fieldfare was in the garden too making it the longest staying individual by far. A record breaking day on many fronts.

Some of the Siskins are putting on a lot of fat to be ready for their spring migration. Weights ranged from a normal winter weight of 11.4g to a hefty 15.3g although they can get heavier than that. Most weighed just over 13g and were carrying moderate fat deposits.

This evening I topped up all the feeders, I also got the ladder out and put fresh apples in the tree in the garden and a few in the trees across the road. Hopefully the Waxwings and Siskins will be tempted to stay with us for some time yet.

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