Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Sunday morning started much the same as Saturday - the overnight drizzle subsiding by the time me and Moxey met pre-dawn at Brook Vale. Once the nets were up, Moxey had to get off as he had a few jobs to do, so it was just me and Canela.

Things were pretty quiet to start with, a small flock of Linnet and three Brambling overhead being the only real interesting observations. The feeding station yielded the majority of the birds, with small numbers of Greenfinch and Chaffinch coming in to feed although the Brambling evaded the temptations of the free food. A single Goldcrest was captured, a retrap originally ringed in early October. Most regular readers of this blog (I have been assured that there is some of you out there) will know that I am particularly fond of the Regulus species and this year has been quite productive from our point of view for Goldcrest.

This Goldcrest would have been the highlight of the days capture until I got a call, via Moxey, from Tony Duckells. Tony, along with Moxey are founding members of the SW Lancs Ringing Group and Tony is actively involved with the group at the Woodvale CES and as the groups Barn Owl Organiser. Tony called to say that there was a small group of Waxwings feeding on a pink pagoda bush in one of his neighbours gardens, just down the road from where we caught one of four a couple of weeks ago.

I quickly packed up, picked up Moxey (who was supposed to be shopping with The Mothership but admitted that he could 'do' a stint in the doghouse for some Waxwings - who wouldn't?) and hoofed it down the bypass to Formby. By the time that we arrive at Tony's, there was only eight birds in the mix, returning every fifteen minutes or so. There was also a collection of local birders and some other members of the group so we quickly popped up a 9m net, had a chat to the neighbours and waited.

Canela on Waxwing Watch

It didn't take long before the birds were back in the bush and four found their way into the net, two of which escaped before we could get to the net. We extracted these to be processed and whilst they were being ringed, we managed to catch another two, amounting to half of the birds that we were dealing with.

With a small audience, we ringed all four birds together and it was interesting to have a mixture of ages and sexes. In order to determine the ages and sexes of the birds, a number of criteria are taken into consideration including the extent of the yellow to the tail feathers and also the number of waxy tips.

Male Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

 Juvenile Female Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

Males can be distinguished from females by the black bib - males have a very defined edge to the bib whereas in females, it is more diffuse.

Female (left) and Male (right)

 Female - note the diffuse edging to the black bib

Male - note the well defined edge to the black bib

This now takes the SWLRG Waxwing grand total to eight, five of which have been ringed this year. As the winter progresses, food will become more scarce and further catching opportunities may present themselves - I've got my eye on a few spots. All in all, me and Moxey had a very productive weekend following the Tree Pipit caught on Saturday. 

To finish, I bought a new van last week. The first bird to take a dump on it was a Waxwing - not going to wash that off in a hurry!


  1. I'm jealous of your Waxwings Peter! And wow, what a late TREPI.

  2. That's how we roll here in SW Lancs!!!

    We were pretty surprised by the TREPI - it seems to have been tweeted and posted on forums all over the place - I was surprised people read my drivel!