Friday, 29 March 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 21 - live well for less

I have been quite busy over the past few days and have been up before first light each day. I am now getting up at around 5am which is far too early for me and leaves me bog-eyed by early evening and generally too tired to post anything. The tiredness usually hits me when I come into the warm after putting out the apples in the evening. This can take between one and two hours and it usually gets to 7pm or later before I have finished this daily task as the birds can still be feeding up to around 5:30pm. I started to write a post last night but fell asleep part way through with the laptop on my knee.

Apple preparation. This represents around one quarter of the apples that I put out each evening although this seems set to increase after today.
The number of Waxwings varies day to day and through the day but they are spending more time in the garden and they also have longer to feed with the increasing day length. The peak count over the past few days was 84 on the 26th but between 40 and 60 is more typical. Apple consumption is now at least 8kg each day and was becoming increasingly expensive. I approached my local Sainsbury's with some pictures I had taken and they kindly agreed to donate any apples they withdraw from sale. This has helped my pocket although I am still buying a lot of apples as the Waxwings are eating more each day. I also received a donation from a local photographer that was greatly appreciated.

Live well for less Waxwing style.

First donation of apples from Sainsbury's received with thanks.
The wind finally eased enough to allow some mist netting and I tried to catch some Waxwings on Wednesday. John G joined me but our tactics weren't quite right and we only caught 4 new birds in the short session. I went to my baited site near Haigh afterwards where I was far more successful catching 33 new birds and 35 retraps despite the increasing breeze. Highlight was my first Lesser Redpoll coming to the nyjer seed feeders along with a few Siskin, Goldfinch and Brambling. I put a net up for the Waxwings again yesterday morning and managed to catch 10 (6 new & 4 retraps) before the wind got too strong.

Adult male Lesser Redpoll.
A fine male Brambling wearing through into breeding plumage.
I collected a sack of apples from Sainsbury's yesterday and put out well over 100 apple halves in the evening. This morning the Waxwings arrived earlier under a clear sky and I counted 84 before they descended into the garden to feed. I didn't watch them for long as I needed to go up to Haigh to top up the feeders. I decided to do a bit of guerrilla pruning en route and I stopped off at a location where the bushes were still covered in berries. I had just got out of the car when I heard a familiar trilling overhead and I looked up to see 6 Waxwings perched in a tree above the cotoneasters. I will leave these berries to the birds now that they have found them. They will probably strip the bushes clean in a day or so if a sizable flock comes to feed.

When I got up to Haigh I decided to put up a couple of nets for a while but it wasn't long before the sun rose enough to shine on the nets and make them easy for the birds to see. In between net rounds I noticed a fox dozing in the sun on an ivy covered mound. Unfortunately I didn't have my DSLR gear with me or my travel zoom but I still grabbed a few shots with my compact camera that only has a 2x magnification zoom. The image crops haven't turned out too bad all things considered. Hopefully it uses this spot regularly and I will get another opportunity.

I packed up by 10:30 having caught 13 new birds and 8 retraps. Just before I set off I got a call from home and was told that there were hardly any apples left in the trees. I dashed home via Sainsbury's but they didn't have many discards this time so I bought their remaining stock of their basic range apples, just over 10 kg of them. When I got home there were plenty of Waxwings but they were feeding on cotoneaster horizontalis which grows up the side of our neighbours house and our garden fence. Others were feeding on pieces of apple that had fallen to the ground and a some were squabbling over the few remaining apples in the trees. I quickly halved most of the apples I had just bought and restocked the trees.

I do take the labels off  and removed them after taking the photos.
30 to 40 Waxwings came back down to feed almost immediately and continued to do so on and off during the afternoon. However, another group has just arrived and there are now at least 70 or 80 in the garden as I write this post (16:25). The trees and bushes are alive with Waxwings and and a few birds are feeding on the ground. I estimate they will have eaten more than 10kg of apples by the end of today. It is likely that they are running out of other feeding options and the apples in the garden are becoming their mainstay. The birds all flew up into a tree across the road and I grabbed a quick photo. On close examination there were 90 give or take the odd 1 or 2.

circa 90 Waxwings in tree across from the garden at 16:50 today. The biggest flock to date.
Ringing totals for 27th - 29th March with retraps in brackets.
Waxwing 10 (4)
Fieldfare 1
Blackbird 3 (3)
Goldfinch 8 (5)
Chaffinch 6 (6)
Siskin 10 (6)
Lesser Redpoll 1
Brambling 3 (1)
Greenfinch 4 (7)
Bullfinch (1)
Coal Tit 3 (3)
Blue Tit 5 (10)
Great Tit 3 (1)
Long-tailed Tit (3)
Dunnock 2
Robin 1 (1)
Total 61 (50)

Despite the record number of Waxwings in the garden today one of the most interesting sightings over the past few days has been a juvenile Wood pigeon that I photographed yesterday. It has been reared through some very harsh conditions given the weather over the past few weeks and the egg must have been laid in late January or early February if not before.

Juvenile Woodpigeon. The nest this bird was reared in must have been constructed in January.
It has done very well to survive the weather of the past few weeks.
Woodpigeon and Waxwing, not something you expect to see together.
This Woodpigeon could be the parent to the juvenile above and probably took
advantage of garden feeding to be able to breed so early in such harsh weather conditions.

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