Friday, 8 March 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 13 - the new normal ?

At least 61 Waxwings gathered in the trees along the road from the garden early yesterday morning. It was difficult to get an accurate count as some birds kept repositioning themselves so there could have been a few more. I had thought that fewer birds would return given all the attention the Sparrowhawk had given them over the previous couple of days.

They moved closer to the garden after about 10 minutes and then the first birds dropped down into the garden about 5 minutes later. I had put a net up but I didn't expect to catch many, if any, as I had loaded the tops of the trees in the garden with apples. I had also put some apples high in a neighbours tree and in the tree line across the road to give them alternative feeding areas and a better vantage point should the Sparrowhawk return. The weather was borderline for mist netting too as there was a bit of a breeze although it was nice and overcast.

The expected Sparrowhawk attacks didn't materialise and the birds fed in relative peace. I sort of relaxed too and indulged in a spell of Waxwing and net watching from the couch in the living room. I soon picked out the usual colour ringed bird and I also noticed that a good few birds were still unringed; perhaps there is a bit more turnover in the flock than I had thought. I didn't really relax that much as there was always the anticipation of catching a few more Waxwings!

Waxwing and mist-net watching.
A few birds were tempted across the garden by the cotoneaster berries that I had acquired. I had placed these and some apples in a buddleia and in my own cotoneaster which had its berries stripped by Blackbirds back in early January. Occasionally one or two birds ended up in the net although most stayed feeding on the high apples. After a couple of hours or so the birds disappeared for a while and I assume they went bathing and drinking or to recce alternative feeding areas.

A Waxwing caught in the 18ft net.
I closed the net at this point and put a few more apples out in the top of the main feeding tree as all the high apples had been eaten. I then took the dogs for a walk satisfied that things were back to normal not that having Waxwings in the garden is really normal for me.

It is over three weeks since the first Waxwing turned up in the garden and they now dominate daily life. Buying apples, going up and down a ladder putting them out, acquiring cotoneaster berries and doing likewise, watching the forecast to see if there is a chance of mist-netting, watching the birds arrive each morning, checking birds for rings and colour rings, generally watching their behaviour and so on. Obsessed is probably the word and why not as this is not likely to happen again.

Another Waxwing being ringed.
Male Waxwing tail with more extensive yellow and red feather shafts.
The waxy tips.
Adult female.

Who is looking at who.
I opened the net for a brief spell in the afternoon and caught another 4 (3 new and 1 retrap). Still no sign of the Sparrowhawk although it could have sneaked in a visit or made a kill elsewhere. Anyway it didn't cause the mayhem witnessed on Wednesday which is the main thing.

Ringing totals for 07/03/13 with retraps in brackets.
Waxwing 7 (3)
Siskin 3 (2)
Long-tailed Tit 3 (2)
Blue Tit (1)
Total 13 (+8 retraps)

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