Friday, 3 May 2013

Waxwing lyrical part 37 - fat but not enough

Well they are still here or 19 of them are to be more precise. They are getting the same care and attention as the first bird did and the hundreds since. I am going to see this through in the same way as I started with the last bird being valued as much as the first. I only need to put out 3kg of apples now but the birds have eaten well over a tonne of apples since the first bird turned up back in February or over 2,200lb if you prefer imperial.

The 19 present today.

A tonne of apples works out at around 7,000 apples so that means I have put out around 14,000 apple halves over the past 80 days. Quite a lot of those apples have been put in the trees using the extension ladder and I estimate that I have climbed over 3,000ft in the process. If you total up the number of Waxwings I have seen over the past 80 days it gives a total of 5951 bird days. These figures give an average of 168g of apple per day per bird over the period although I have yet to crunch the numbers in detail and there is some wastage to make an allowance for. The average consumption is likely to be just under 150g per bird each day over the time I have been feeding them.

A very green scene compared to a couple of weeks ago.
I put a couple of nets up this morning and caught 5 of the remaining Waxwings in one catch. They were all retraps although one of these retraps was a control (ringed elsewhere) that I had caught before. None of the birds caught today was particularly heavy so these birds may be around for a few days yet (famous last words). All but one bird had shown a weight gain but all were still under 70g so need to put on a bit more weight before migrating.

Looks quite plump but still needs to put on a few more grams.

A very pear shaped Waxwing, all the weight has gone south on this bird.
Sparrowhawks are still paying the birds quite a bit of attention and usually flush them several times a day but they have not been seen making a kill recently. I grabbed the photo below through the front window yesterday. Today the birds were also flushed by a stunning Hobby which wasn't interested in the Waxwings and was just passing through over the roof tops.

This bird attacked out of the sun early yesterday morning.
One of several failed attacks made yesterday.
A few Blackcaps are still taking advantage of the apples even though there are quite a few insects around now. The bird photographed today may still be on passage rather than being a local breeding bird. Its feeding behaviour was suggestive of it being a migrant and it looks quite fat too.

Male Blackcap.
After the Waxwing catch I went to my ringing site at Longshaw to try and catch up on some of the routine ringing I would normally do at this time of year. I was hoping for a few passage Redpolls and wasn't disappointed. I caught 10 including a control (a bird ringed elsewhere). These birds showed just about every variation in colour you can get in Lesser Redpolls.
The bird on the right is a warm brown colour typical of Lesser Redpolls but the bird on the left is a much colder grey colour with whiter wing bars more suggestive of Common (Mealy) Redpoll.


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