Sunday, 8 February 2015

Waxwing - you are winding me up.

I went to Crawford to check the feeders on Friday afternoon (6th Feb) and there were loads of birds around. A mixed flock of over 50 Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and Greenfinches came up from the remnants of the seed on the ground and there were plenty more in the surrounding hedges along with some Chaffinches and Goldfinches. All the feeders were empty or very nearly so making it a timely visit.

I had been planning the next ringing session at Crawford for today but the forecast was for a foggy morning so I opted for yesterday instead. I arrived just after dawn and got the nets up quite quickly. A pre-dawn start isn't required as the birds don't usually start arriving in any number until after sunrise which suits me now that the days are getting longer.

A Blackbird, a Robin, a Yellowhammer and 2 Goldfinch were caught straight away and the next round was even better with 15 bird caught including 4 Tree Sparrows. A very productive ringing session looked to be on the cards when I received two calls from home to tell me there was a Waxwing feeding on one of the apple halves in the garden. At first I thought it was a wind-up as there have been very few in the country this winter but I was was reassured it was there, it was real and feeding quite contentedly.

I just didn't know what to do, should I stay or should I go (now there is a good song). I wasn't sure if I was in the right place at the wrong time or the other way around. Now it isn't as if I haven't seen Waxwings in the garden before and long time readers of this blog will know I had up to 220 feeding in the garden back in spring of 2013 but the allure of Waxwings is such that it doesn't really matter how many you have seen. That attraction is all the greater when it is a Waxwing in your own garden, you haven't seen one for nearly 2 years and it is only the second winter period you have ever had them in your garden. I had to weigh this up against what looked like being my best catch of sparrows, buntings and finches at Crawford this winter including the possibility of catching some much sought after Corn Buntings. What to do????

I decided that I just had to go home just in case the Waxwing didn't linger and even though I knew that my son had already taken some photos of it. There are still plenty of berries around (Cotoneaster, white Rowans and some Hawthorn) so it is not as if there aren't plenty of alternative feeding opportunities available to it. In fact it seemed strange that it found the apples in my garden at all given the other brightly coloured and more abundant options available in the area. Because of this I had asked my son to try and get some photographs of its legs to see if it was ringed as I thought there was a chance that it could be a returning bird from 2013.

It took me a bit longer to get the nets down than I would have liked because I had caught more birds. When I had finally packed up the ringing totals (retraps in brackets) were: Blackbird 1; Song Thrush 1; Robin 2; Blue Tit 6 (1); Tree Sparrow 6; Chaffinch 1; Greenfinch 5; Goldfinch 2 (1); Yellowhammer 2; Reed Bunting 1. Total 27 new birds and 2 retraps,

I got home at about 10:30 to be told the Waxwing had been last seen about 15 minutes previously. I had a quick look at the photos my son had taken and could see it was an adult female which meant there was still a chance that it could be a returning bird but unfortunately he hadn't been able to get an image showing both legs so I couldn't tell if it was ringed or not. The pictures weren't great as some had been taken through the window and in some the bird was also back-lit but they were more than good enough as record shots.

The white fringes of the primaries extend right around the tip indicating it is an adult. 

The diffuse border of the black bib where it meets the breast and relatively narrow yellow tip to the tail are indicative of  it being a female

Unfortunately the bird's legs are obscured in each photo.
I positioned myself at the window and waited and waited. At around 11am it reappeared in the trees just across the road from the garden and it sat there for at least five minutes before flying off when some Goldfinches, that had joined it, suddenly flushed. It returned again an hour later and sat looking down at the garden for around 10 minutes but didn't come down to feed. Other birds were quite jittery at this time so there could have been a cat or a Sparrowhawk lurking somewhere. I continued to looked out for it for the rest of the day but it didn't return. During the afternoon someone was flying a drone on the park just across the road and that may not have helped.

This was my first view of the bird. It sat in a tree opposite the garden for around 5 minutes.

It returned about an hour later but again just sat watching the garden.

Who is looking at who. I can see drones becoming a bit of a nuisance and another source of disturbance to wildlife in some circumstances and if not used with due consideration.
A summary of the legal requirements for flying drones can be found here.
Although I got to see the Waxwing I didn't get to see it as close as I would have liked and, more frustratingly, I wasn't able to confirm if it was wearing a ring or not. It is too early to start Waxwing lyrical again but there is still a chance it may return. Interestingly, in 2013 the first Waxwings appeared in the garden on 10th February (post here) so the timing is remarkably similar. Also the first to start feeding in the garden was an adult female (post here) and she didn't return for a couple of days after her initial visit. Make of that what you will but it is just a bit too much of a coincidence for me. As for what I missed ringing at Crawford by packing up early, well that is anybody's guess but there should be more good days to come there.

I woke up this morning to find the fog had formed as forecast. It wasn't very dense but was thick enough to make mist-nets just a bit too visible to be effective. I kept an eye on the garden all morning but there was no sign of the Waxwing. By lunchtime the fog had thinned so I put an 18ft net up by the feeders while I did some jobs in the garage. I haven't done any mist-netting in the garden for a good while and there were plenty of Goldfinches about. I soon started catching and I caught so well that I didn't get much work done. The ringing totals for the afternoon (retraps in brackets) were: Goldfinch 36 (5), Blackbird 2, Blue Tit 1 (1), Song Thrush 1, Starling (1). Totals 39 new birds and 8 retraps. One of the retrap Goldfinches had been ringed in December 2011 and the retrap Blue Tit had been ringed in September 2011. No sight or sound of the Waxwing all afternoon but I will continue to keep looking and listening.

No comments:

Post a Comment