Sunday, 7 April 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 26 - eating more than ever

Well they are still here and and numbers are staying around the 150 mark. They are working their way through at least 15kg of apples each day now and probably quite a bit more than that on some days. They have eaten around a third of a tonne of apples since the first bird turned up all those weeks ago and at the present rate it won't take long for the half a tonne figure to be reached. It is probably better if I don't think about it too much or try and work out the true figure as it could be more.

A few of the people who have come to see them recently have asked me how much they are eating and costing when they see all the birds and apples in the trees. When I have explained a few have been kind enough to donate a few pounds towards the cost and others have dropped off the odd bag or two of apples. These donations are usually accompanied by comments that they have been to see them several times and that watching the birds has brought them a great deal of pleasure. A big thank you to all who have made any contribution.
They have a slightly hooked tip to the upper and lower mandibles which they use to nip off small pieces of apple
but they will take larger chunks whenever they can.
When you watch them eating they don't seem to make much progress as they usually only manage to bite off small pieces at a time but this is quite deceptive. Multiply this up by their feeding rate and the number of birds and they can soon shift some apples. The birds are eating more voraciously now as they are trying to put on weight for their long migration back to their breeding grounds. One bird caught for ringing the other day was carrying significant fat deposits and weighed 76.2g. This bird was 50% heavier than some of the lighter birds caught at the same time. Another bird retrapped this morning weighed 74.5g and has put on 16g in the 8 days since it was first caught and ringed. The majority of birds still aren't carry that much fat so it could mean they will be here for a couple of weeks yet assuming I can afford it.

This Waxwing breaks off and tries to swallow the piece of apple core arrowed in the picture.
Her efforts at swallowing it can be seen in the following sequence of shots.

After several attempts at swallowing it she eventually gave up and dropped it.
One photographer that I spoke to yesterday asked me if I was putting water out for them. I said that I was but I had only seen one bird come down to drink and none had bathed. Later that afternoon a few decided to make a mockery of that comment by bathing with gusto. This was quite late in the afternoon and the bird bath was in the shade of the house and also obscured by a few twigs from a birch tree. The bath has now been moved to a better position should they use it again.

Bath time squabbles.

Bath time squabbles.

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