Friday, 19 April 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 31 - ready for the off

On Wednesday (17th) there were still at least 200 Waxwings but I didn't manage to get more accurate count before I had to head off to work via Sainsbury's. A weather warning was in force for strong winds and even gales from Wednesday evening through to Thursday morning so I wasn't looking forward to putting out the apples that night. When I got home that evening the Waxwings had eaten almost all of the apples so I quickly put out a few more kilos and a good number continued feeding until almost 8 o'clock.

It was very windy and some of the gusts were really strong but I decided to try and put the apples out as normal. As I climbed the ladder at the first tree it was swaying quite a bit so I did have to wrap my arms around the tree once or twice to hold on. I stuck with it and carried on putting out the apples and although I am no tree hugger I certainly had to be a few times that night. I was more bothered that the wind might shake the apples off the branches and undo all my work.

Next morning it was still really windy with near gale force gusts but, thankfully, most if not all of the apples were still up in the trees. The birds arrived a bit later than usual but 178 were present by 07:00 although I struggled with that count in the wind. That was the best count I managed before heading off on the college run and then on to work, again via Sainbury's.

Around 133 of the 178 Waxwings present early morning 18.04.13.
32 Waxwings in the evening sunshine 18.04.13 looking fat and ready to go.
It was still quite windy when I got home from work it but was forecast to drop overnight. I had booked today (Friday) off as I hoped to do some ringing to see how much weight the birds were gaining. The high pressure that is forecast for tomorrow could also provide the ideal conditions for the birds to leave so I thought it may be the last opportunity to catch a good sample of the flock.

This morning I was up at 05:30, I say up but I didn't actually go to bed as I fell asleep on the couch again. It was a little bit breezier than I would have liked but it was nice and overcast. I only put up one 18ft net in the most sheltered position because of the breeze but I still didn't think I would catch much. To my surprise and delight I caught 12 new and 12 retrap Waxwings over the next couple of hours. Some of the retraps were particularly interesting as they showed the weight the birds have gained over the past couple of weeks. A bird ringed on 05/04/13 when it weighed 58.3g was retrapped today and weighed 72.3g, an increase of 14g in 14 days. That may not seem much but it is an increase of around 24% and equivalent to an 8 stone person putting on the best part of 2 stone in only 2 weeks, now that takes some eating to do that whatever you eat and especially apples!

Looks fat and is fat, this bird weighed 72.1g but has someway to go to match the heaviest caught today.
It also has some way to go to get back to it's breeding grounds and hopefully all the apples have helped
 improve it's and the others chances.
One bird caught this morning was the heaviest caught to date and weighed a whopping 82.2g. I could tell it was really fat as soon as I took it out of the net but it was a new bird so I don't know how quickly it achieved that weight. From what I have read it must be about as fat as they get as it is heavier than the weight ranges shown in all the publications I have read to date. There were only 120 to 150 birds feeding this morning so the tide appears to have turned and the birds have started to move on. The weight increases and ideal migration conditions tomorrow's high pressure will present are also likely to see a good number head off back towards their breeding grounds.

One thing for sure I will be up bleary eyed and early to find out.

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