In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cedar Waxwings flocking

Last week Greg and I were admiring the bees among the apple blossoms when Skipper and Dylan happened along, looking for lambs. "There's a Cedar Waxwing in that apple tree," Dylan announced. I told you he has good eyesight. He knows his birds, too.  Once Dylan had pointed them out I could see a few Cedar Waxwings along the branches of the apple tree. I had never seen them before, but maybe that was because I hadn't known to look for them. That kind of thing happens to me a lot.

Later that day I counted nine of them as they rose from the branches of the little apple tree in the front yard and zoomed off together. In late afternoon I sat in the garden and watched as dozens of Cedar Waxwings took over the apple tree that might or might not be a Transcendent Crab. They waved up and down along the flimsiest of branches, and made short excursion flights from one part of the tree to another, all the while enjoying each other's company. These birds are extroverts. I could often count as many as half a dozen within a few feet of each other. 

Their beauty is hard to describe. To call them grey and yellow does not do justice to the subtle blending of shades and sheen along their breasts. Their top knot is like a Cardinal's and gives them a distinctive profile so that once you have heard of them they are easy to spot.  And the soft pink and white of the apple blossoms complements their colouring. Apple trees in blossom were made for Cedar Waxwings, and the other way around.  

But the most distinguishing characteristic of these birds is their gluttony. Most birds that visit the apple trees are looking for insects in the bark and finding their food the hard way, pecking for it, bug by bug. Not these guys. They were perched all over that maybe Transcendent Crab actually eating the blossoms. They stuffed the petals into their mouths like there was no tomorrow. I think they could have stripped that tree down to its leaves before sunset if they had felt like it, but fortunately for the tree they heard about some even better tree somewhere else and flew off together to look for it, like a crowd of beautiful shiny bar-hoppers looking for a livelier party in some other neighbourhood. 

Image from Birds of Nova Scotia, courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

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