Sunday, 14 April 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 29 - the apple man

A few people have come up to me recently and said 'oh you're the apple man' when they have seen me putting out extra apples during the day. This is because the task of putting them out often goes unseen in the evening and into darkness. I have also been told that someone actually called the police one evening because a man was seen carrying a ladder and a bag in the dark and that the Police turned up to check out the report. It just goes to show how slow Police response times are that they didn't feel my collar, especially as it takes so long put out all the apples, or perhaps someone explained what I was doing.

Yesterday morning I was up early as usual and waiting for the Waxwings to arrive. The first few birds arrived at 06:15 but at least 162 had gathered by 06:40. There has been around this number for just over a week now and no sign of them moving on anytime soon. Having said that ringing has shown there is quite a bit turnover within the flock. I had a couple of nets up again yesterday morning and caught 13 new birds and only 6 retraps. This brought the total ringed to 225 and in addition 8 controls (birds ringed elsewhere) have been caught. There is still a large proportion of unringed birds in the flock so there is clearly movement in and out of the flock. Interestingly though some birds have been around for a long time now and one of the colour ringed birds has been visiting the garden since 17th February and has been seen most days up to and including yesterday.

Most of the 162 birds as they gathered early morning 13.04.13
I took a few photos in yesterday's early morning sunshine and on closer examination I could see quite a few birds had pollen around their bills and on their heads. They have presumably been feeding on or in tree flowers to get dusted by pollen in this way. The birds are probably feeding on nectar in Goat Willow flowers which are quite abundant at this time of year and often fed on by birds such as Blue Tits and Redpolls. Many species of tree are starting to flower now so they will have this alternative food supply if I have to curtail or limit the number of apples that I feed due to the cost.

Note all the pollen on the crown of the left hand bird

You can clearly see all the pollen around the bill and face on this Waxwing.
This morning I had a bit of a lie-in and only got up at 8:00am. All the feeding trees were full of Waxwings and I estimated there were at least 150. They flushed up into the top of the trees at one point and were in a position to get a reasonable count. A few birds were moving about and changing perches because it was quite windy but there were at least 185 which is a new record count. It looks like I will continue to be known as the apple man for a while yet.

Once again a big thank you to those who have donated apples or money towards the cost of feeding all these birds.

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