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22 December 2010 @ 09:24 pm
A Waxwing Invasion  

After I left the Rideau Trail, I decided to look for the Bohemian Waxwings again before heading home. To my delight, the crabapple tree in front of the school was full of waxwings. They didn't stay long, however; after only about a minute they flew up into the air and circled the area in a tight flock before returning to the tree.

After they flew off a second time, I moved closer to the tree and, crouching next to a snow bank, waited for them to come back. A couple of minutes later I heard their distinctive calls and watched as they all flew into the tree again. Unfortunately they didn't stay long this time either; once again they took to the air after only a few seconds.

Bohemian Waxwing

I found that by sitting still, the birds would come back again and again, taking no notice of me whatsoever. These were the most skittish Bohemian Waxwings I have ever seen. There were about 30 of them, and they never landed for more than a few seconds. For 20 minutes I watched them land, gobble down a berry or two as quickly as possible, and then fly off and circle the area, only to return for another quick stop. I had to be quick to photograph them; every time they landed, they barely stayed long enough for me to focus on one particular bird.

There weren't many berries on the tree, and those that remained were all on the bottom branches. Sometimes the waxwings would land in the bare branches at the top of the tree before flying down to the lower branches to devour the berries.

Once when the flock took off, this individual was left behind. In this image he seems to have just realized that all the other waxwings had left; his expression seems to be saying, "Hey! Where'd everybody go?! Wait for me!"

I zoomed out to capture this image of a small group of the Bohemians eating. This image impresses me not only because it captures the activity and energy of the flock, but also because so many birds are in focus!

This image, however, is my favourite, and I still don't know how I managed to capture this amazing moment (yes, that is his tongue beneath the berry)!

Here are two more photos:

I was surprised by how many great photos I ended up with, given how skittish these birds were and given that I barely had time to focus on any of the birds while they were chowing down. I immensely enjoyed watching these birds, as much for the constant, musical chorus of the flock as for their colourful plumage. Having the Bohemian Waxwings back this winter is a real treat, and I hope they find enough food here to last them the whole winter.

Interestingly enough, the very next day when I drove past the tree, not a single berry was left on its branches!

Soul Diasporasoul_diaspora on December 24th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
I've combed through the arboretum twice now looking for waxwings--lots of starlings and robins eating the crabapples, but no joy. I look for them anywhere I hike that has fruit trees or berry bushes. Seems like everyone's seeing them this winter but me :-(
Soul Diasporasoul_diaspora on December 26th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
Okay, I can stop whining about waxwings now :-) Saw big flocks of them flying over the feeders at Shirley's Bay. Redpolls there too!
Gillian: Nuthatchgillianm on December 27th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
That's awesome. Shirley's Bay is a good place to find them since there are a lot of buckthorn berries there. I still need Common Redpolls for my year & winter list, though, and have been waiting for them to show up somewhere accessible.

Were there lots of photographers there?
Soul Diasporasoul_diaspora on December 27th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
Were there lots of photographers there?


One man actually looked at me and blurted out, "too many people." That's what we're all thinking, pal :-)