Saturday, 13 November 2010

Waxy-Tastic !

As most readers will know there has been a big influx of these fantastic winter vistors over the last few weeks with numbers soaring to the thousands and widespread distribution. As members of Grampian Ring Group we are pre-conditioned to target these birds as Aberdeen is the Waxwing capital of the UK and by colour-ringing the birds we get fantastic re-sightings that describe the movements of these berry munchers (without the need to re-trap them). Birders and photographers seem to like the winter challenge of checking birds for rings so this is a mutually beneficial activity.You could also add to this that Waxwings are simply fantastic birds to handle and work with, so you can see that we don't need to be asked !

I am perfectly placed as I live right next to a city cemetery that attracts Waxwings in numbers, and often can see hundreds wheeling about out of my back window, and occasionally in the trees at the bottom of the garden. Last year was a no go for me as there were no birds at the site, but I was hopeful this year given reports in advance from the Northern Isles and Scandanavia.

On Friday 29th October I speculatively set up a fixed net at a preferred feeding tree and caught a single Waxwing within two minutes, the first mainland caught and colour-ringed bird for the winter. This tree was literally 100 yards from my back door !

On Sunday 31st October myself and a couple of other Grampian ringers caught 43 Waxwings at the same tree, and other GRG members caught 15 elsewhere and 43 at Ballater the previous day, so quite a haul and great team effort !

Numbers of birds increased and by Tuesday 2nd November there were over 1000 at Kincorth, south of the river Dee. This was quite some sight especially when they were in the air ! With up to 400 visiting the cemetery efforts continued from Tuesday 2nd through to Saturday 5th with a further 49 Waxwings caught in the south of the city near my house. Undoubtedly, the highlight on Friday 5th was this Swedish ringed juvenile (which we subsequently colour-ringed Left Leg Orange-Lime-Orange):

This is apparently only the third Swedish control for the UK ( Riksmuseum have been contacted with catching details but I am still awaiting information as it appears a recently ringed bird). It was the first bird caught on a slow morning though we went on to catch another 16 and a very reddy-brown female Sparrowhawk ( that chased a Waxwing in to the net before it too got caught - both unharmed). This Swedish ringed bird, like approx 90% of the birds we have caught, was a juvenile in its first winter:

Sadly, on Thursday evening I was informed that this bird had been found dead on 10th November after striking a window about 3 miles North of where it was ringed. Waxwings are apparently notorious for flying in panic into windows and strikes are a common occurence, often resulting in death. We were all looking forward to receiving sightings of this bird as it made its way south over the winter and the fact that it is a Swedish ringed bird would have no doubt created more interest. Oh well, such is life.

We have continued to catch on a limited basis this week and managed another 9 birds over two mornings - much harder going as the flocks have dispersed and the birds change feeding trees. So my total (on my rings) is 102 from the overall current total of 205 birds GRG have caught to date which is a pretty good total. This should result in numerous reports of colour-ringed birds as they move through the country so do keep checking and report sightings to us via our site at:

Thanks to Euan, Callum, Walter and Derek (who came all the way up from Fife !) for help catching and processing birds over the last two weeks.

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