Saturday, 20 April 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 32 - Blackcap bonanza

It may seem strange including Blackcap in the title but this post is still about the Waxwings. I had arranged to do another ringing session this morning and was joined by Duncan Bell who had driven up from Hampshire overnight such is the lure of Waxwings. Duncan drove up a few weeks ago and featured in my post Waxwing lyrical part 10 - the big grin. We arranged to meet at around 05:30 and John G also joined us before going to work.

The first few birds arrived just as we had finished putting up the nets at around 06:00. We retired to the house and waited for the rest of the birds to arrive. Duncan was in the chair by the window and counted in the squadrons of Waxwings as they arrived. Numbers built up quite quickly with at least 120 present by 06:20. This is a significant reduction in numbers on a few days ago and shows that the birds are finally starting to leave in good numbers. This was fairly predictable given the weights some of the birds had reached and the good weather.

Birds soon dropped down and started feeding on the apples in the garden with Duncan describing it as the greatest show on earth; it is something quite special watching them all glide down into the garden. On the first round of the nets we caught 11 Waxwings and 2 Blackcaps. Now a couple of Blackcaps isn't that unusual in the second half of April but we subsequently noticed that there were quite a few around feeding on the apples. There must have been an arrival of these warblers overnight and they were taking full advantage of the Waxwing's apples to refuel. It was difficult to gauge their numbers as some birds seemed to feed for a while and then move on but there were at least 9 Blackcaps and there could have been a few more. That sort of concentration wouldn't be very unusual on the coast in autumn but is exceptional inland in spring and in such a small area.

I get the odd Blackcap in winter so I have seen Blackcaps feeding with the Waxwings before but to see several in amongst the Waxwings seemed really strange. Unfortunately they weren't easy to photograph as they didn't go quite as far as sharing an apple.

Who has been eating my apples.
Spot the female Blackcap
We caught quite a few retrap Waxwings that showed good weight gains and most were carrying moderate levels of a fat. There were few very heavy birds that weighed over 70g and these are likely to be the next to leave. One of the birds caught was a control (ringed elsewhere) and its ring number was very close to the ring numbers of two other birds we have controlled; the ring numbers of these three birds almost being consecutive (NW236 _ _ series). It will be interesting to find out where these birds were ringed. We took the nets down before mid morning having caught 28 Waxwings including retraps and the control, 4 Blackcaps and a Wren.

Much of the rest of the morning and afternoon was spent taking a few photographs and inputting the ringing data onto the computer. Blackcaps continued to feed on the apples with the Waxwings so I put a net up again in the early evening and caught 2 more along with 2 Long-tailed Tits and a Great Tit.

Female Blackcap.
Male Blackcap
adult male Waxwing

adult female Waxwing

This bird is fat but not as fat as it looks in this shot.
It had just fluffed up and was shaking its feathers.
Ringing totals for 20/04/13 with retraps in brackets.
Waxwing 12 (15 + 1 control)
Blackcap 6
Great Tit 1
Long-tailed Tit 2
Wren 1
Total 22 (15 + 1 control)

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