Sunday, 17 March 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 18 - WaxFinch weekend

A bit of a mixed bag all round this weekend both in terms of the weather and on the ringing front. I woke up to hear it raining on Saturday morning but got up anyway to see how many Waxwings would arrive. The rain had almost stopped just before the first Waxwings were due and I contemplated putting a net up but I decided not to. The first few Waxwings arrived and low and behold the rain stopped completely so I hastily put up the 18ft net. At least 56 gathered in the trees along the road before dropping into the garden as usual.

I caught 2 Siskins and 4 Waxwings quite quickly but then a few spots of rain put a damper on things and I furled the net. The rain lasted until mid-morning by which time there was a bit too much of a breeze so I took the net down. The garden was still full of Waxwings and even though I can happily watch them all day I decided to tear myself away after lunch. I went up to my baited site near Haigh to top up the feeders and to do a couple of hours ringing weather permitting.

One Waxwing was unusual in that it had some diffuse white markings across the
middle of the wing feathers and adjacent to the yellow tip on the tail (below)

It started raining shortly after I set off and the rain then turned to hail so I wasn't sure if I would get any ringing in at all. I needn't have worried though as it was an isolated shower and confirmed by the weather app and rainfall radar on my phone. I topped up the feeders and put up a 60ft net. The ringing was more productive than expected for an afternoon session and I caught 57 birds over the next 3 hours; finches featured with six species being caught.

The differences in the plumage the male Chaffinches displayed was quite striking.
The left hand bird is in full breeding plumage with blue crown and nape and
blue bill with darker cutting edges. This was a short winged bird and presumably
a local breeder. The right hand bird was longer winged and carrying a lot of fat
and presumed to be of continental origin. It had a horn coloured bill and the blue
crown and nape were concealed by brown tips. It doesn't need to get into full
breeding until it returns to its breeding grounds in the next few weeks.
Male Brambling

male Bullfinch
male and female Goldfinches.
male and female Siskin
On my way home I made a bit of a detour to do some more guerrilla pruning from a location the Waxwings have yet to find. It had started raining again and it looked like it had set in for a while. When I got home it was raining quite heavily but Waxwing duty called and I spent a good while putting out apples and cotoneaster berries. It took longer than usual as I wear glasses and the rain made it difficult for me to see what I was doing added to the fact that it was dark by this time. Darkness, rain, spectacles and sharp things like a knife, secateurs and scissors don't always mix and my hands now carry the marks.

This morning dawned dry and quite calm so I tried for the Waxwings again. John G joined me on his way to work and a good catch was on the cards. Unfortunately the Waxwings hadn't read the script and only 3 were caught before an unforecast breeze picked up and made the net stand out. We took the net down at this point rather than try and catch birds when the conditions weren't quite right.

It was still early so I decided to go back to Haigh for a couple of hours to see if I could catch a few more finches. It wasn't as productive as yesterday afternoon but I still managed to catch another 26 birds. On returning home at lunchtime there were no Waxwings around but there were very few apples left in the main feeding tree so they had clearly eaten well.

I got the ladder out and restocked the tree before feeding myself. Shortly after a few Waxwings reappeared, these were soon followed by a few more small flocks and soon there were 62. The birds fed in the garden for much of the rest of the afternoon and the light allowed me to get some more photographs. I hope you enjoy this small selection.


Combined ringing totals for the weekend were:
Siskin 9
Goldfinch 10 (10)
Chaffinch 8 (3)
Greenfinch 3 (6)
Brambling 2
Bullfinch 1
Dunnock 3 (2)
Robin 1 (1)
Blue Tit 12 (5)
Coal Tit 4 (3)
Great Tit 1 (1)
Blackbird - (1)
Waxwing 5 (2)
Total 59 (+34 retraps)

In addition the colour ringed Waxwing from Aberdeen and Estonian ringed bird were both seen and photographed.

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