Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several newspapers in New England.
There I was, minding my own business photographing a song sparrow in the glowing morning light when out of nowhere a small flock of cedar waxwings appeared on the scene.
Cedar waxwings, in my opinion anyway, are one of the most attractive songbirds we have in New England. They have a nice blend of light browns, tans and grays to go along with their trademark red-tipped wings and yellow-tipped tails. Their thin black eye masks make them look a bit mischievous.
Cedar waxwings are not uncommon, and they can be fairly tame, but quality opportunities to photograph them over the years have been somewhat scarce for me. I see regularly the classic photos of cedar waxwings eating berries. The only time I got a good, close look at waxwings eating berries was years ago on a dark, gloomy day. The photos I took were even more dark and gloomy.
This time, one of the waxwings had an insect in its bill as it flew over. It gobbled the bug down and perched for a few more seconds before flying off to another tree. The rest of the flock followed its leader.
It was a short-lived moment, but it was enough. Birding and nature photography are often like that, a few seconds of excitement makes hours of waiting worthwhile. I checked the small monitor on the back of the camera, and the images looked fine. It made my day. A photo of the waxwing with the insect is on my website, www.birdsofnewengland.com.
I turned my attention back to the song sparrow and, not surprisingly, it was gone. I could still hear it, but it had moved into the thick brush and out of view. I have plenty of photos of song sparrows — they tend to be very cooperative subjects — so I don’t regret this time having diverted my attention away to the waxwings.
A male and female yellow warbler flew into a nearby tree. The male blurted out its “sweet-sweet-sweeter-than-sweet” song a few times before they, too, moved on. It was as if the birds on this day just wanted to come over and say a quick hello. Or was that a quick “get the heck out of here.” I’m not sure.
The photos of the yellow warblers did not come out as well. The sun illuminated their yellow plumage brilliantly, but I overexposed the shots. Sometimes it happens.
So it was the waxwings that stole the show on this day. I didn’t get the classic berry-eating shots, but that’s OK. I got one shot with an insect and a few with one of the handsome birds striking a regal pose. I’ll take that any day.