For the Birds: Cedar waxwings’ timely appearance

Photo by Chris Bosak A cedar waxwing looks for berries in a park in New England, January 2021.

With the tendinitis in my foot acting up again, I wasn’t sure how long of a walk I would be able to bear. I had to give it a shot, however, as a few inches of light, fluffy snow had fallen overnight and made the landscape irresistible for anyone with a camera.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have to go very far to get some nice bird photos. I started down a path bordered by thick brush on both sides when I saw a swarm of birds land in a nearby leafless tree. My initial thought was that they were starlings as this flock rivaled in number the large groups of starlings you often see. Something didn’t look quite right, however. They weren’t acting like starlings and they weren’t the right shape.

How cool would it be if they were cedar waxwings? I asked myself. About 10 seconds later the flock descended, one by one, upon the bushes on both sides of me. Suddenly, I was surrounded by cedar waxwings picking off the leftover berries in the bushes.

It is usually about this time when things like this happen that I kick myself for not having my camera with me. This day, however, I was prepared and had my trusty Canon in tow.

The waxwings proved to be tricky photo subjects even though they were plentiful and close. They didn’t sit still for long and the thick brush made it more difficult as most of the birds remained obscured by branches. Occasionally, one would rise to the top of a bush and give me a fleeting opportunity for a nice photograph.

It was the largest flock of cedar waxwings I had seen in a long while. I would estimate the number to be around 100. I checked closely for any tagalong Bohemian waxwings but did not spot any of those larger cousins of the cedar waxwing.

After about 10 minutes, the waxwings gathered in another nearby tree and soon after that flew off to parts unknown. It was then I noticed the other birds around. A decent number of robins were also picking through the leftover berries. Robins are known as a harbinger of spring, but some robins, of course, stick with us through winter.

Then a hermit thrush popped out of the brush to check me out. It hopped to a nearby branch, and then another. Then it skulked back into the thick brush. A hermit thrush is another good winter sighting in New England as most of them have flown south by the end of fall.

Satisfied with the day’s effort and wondering when my foot was going to give out, I headed back to the car eager to check out the waxwing photos on the back of the camera. I was happy with the results even though there weren’t any prize winners among the photos. I was just happy to get some decent shots to mark and memorialize the day. Here’s hoping for more successful bird outings for us all.

Cedar waxwing’s namesake wingtips

Photo by Chris Bosak A cedar waxwing looks for berries in a park in New England, January 2021.

Cedar waxwings are a favorite bird of many people as they are one of the more interesting-looking birds we have in New England. Many people may wonder where it gets its unique name. As the photo shows, the wingtips look as if they are dipped in red wax, hence the name.

Snowy and lucky morning

My first bird walk of the new year proved to be a good one. A fresh but thin blanket of snow covered southern New England on Monday morning making for a quintessential winter scene. I got up with the sun and headed to the nearest park. As I walked along a trail, a large flock of small birds settled into the tall, leafless trees around me. Before I could lift my binoculars to see what they were, they descended upon the berry-covered brush on either side of the trail. Cedar waxwings, lots of them — at least 100. Usually when something like this happens, I don’t have my camera with me for whatever reason. I was prepared this time. A good start to 2021.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A cedar waxwing looks for berries in a park in New England, January 2021.