Sunday, 29 November 2015

Waiting for Waxwings

Autumn migration more or less fizzled out at Billinge in the last week with a diminishing number of birds seen and ringed on the 3 visits I manged to fit in. The weather was reasonable on the 23rd and produced 27 new birds and 4 retraps with Goldcrests, Redwings, and Lesser Redpolls accounting for all but 2 of the birds caught. The weather was much less favourable on the 26th and only 10 birds were ringed but another 3 Redwing, 2 Goldcrest and 2 Lesser Redpoll were added to the autumn's excellent totals for those species. A similar weather hampered and shortened session the following day only saw 2 new Goldcrests and 1 new Blackbird find their way into the nets. Combined totals (retraps in brackets) for the week were: Redwing 11; Goldcrest 9; Lesser Redpoll 15 (3), Blackbird 2; Dunnock 1; Bullfinch 1; Goldfinch 1; Blue Tit (1). Highlights from the sightings were a Green Woodpecker (26th) and Water Rail and Woodcock (27th).

The first Redwing out of the net on the 23rd had a deformed bill with the lower mandible being overgrown. It had also lost the tip of the upper mandible and the deformity is presumably the result of an injury rather than disease.
It looked even stranger when the bill was closed.
One of the other Redwings caught on the 23rd stood out as being darker with more extensive markings below and was considered to be an Icelandic bird although the picture doesn't quite do it justice.
A Lesser Redpoll with an amber coloured poll. It has been a great autumn for Redpolls at Billinge although October was not the peak month like it usually is. A total of 290 have been ringed as follows: August 1, September 159; October 82; November 48.
So what am I going to do now? Well as the post title suggests one of the things I will be doing is monitoring the reports of Waxwings to assess the likelihood of birds finding their way to this part of the country. It doesn't look like there will be a massive influx this winter but there are certainly going to be more than were recorded in the last two winters. There have already been a a good scattering of sightings along the east coast from the Northern Isles down to Suffolk and a few birds have penetrated further west to the Outer Hebrides, Northern Ireland and Cumbria. Birds could continue to arrive through December and into the new year and there have been some encouraging reports from the near continent in recent days including a flock of around 1,000 feeding in the botanical gardens in Oslo (Oslo Birder blog link here). Oslo is only a little over 650 miles away so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks. There seems to be the potential for a moderately good influx at least.

Many more Waxwings could arrive in the UK in the coming weeks and the patchy distribution of berries that are left could mean they move inland quite quickly.
Fingers crossed.

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