Archive for November, 2012

Cedar Waxwings in Red Maples

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Late on a cloudy, cool, very gray afternoon two red maples at the edge of our front yard lit up the street with the rose-red glow of their leaves, radiant and colorful as sunrise against a background of misty gray and brown.

The afternoon at first seemed quiet, almost hushed, with little wind. Then sounds began to emerge. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice chattered as they came and went from the feeder hanging in the oaks. Two Mourning Doves, a Northern Cardinal and three White-throated Sparrows searched for seeds beneath it. The tsseeet calls of more White-throated Sparrows came from somewhere in the bushes. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet stuttered jidit-jidit. Two Carolina Wrens sang, trilled and burbled. A Brown Thrasher feeding in the grass fled abruptly into the low, dark branches of the wax myrtles. A small flock of blackbirds, mostly Common Grackles, flew over with hoarse, creaky calls. Yellow-rumped Warblers flew up and back among the bare branches of three river birches, scattering quick check calls. American Crows cawed and Blue Jays cried down the street. An Eastern Phoebe sang.

At the top of the driveway, I heard the high, thin calls of Cedar Waxwings – and sure enough, found about half a dozen perched in the bare branches of a river birch, the first ones I’ve seen this season, though I’ve been hearing their calls for several days now. In the murky gray light, their warm brown color, lemon-yellow belly and even the touches of glistening yellow and red didn’t show up well – they were barely more than silhouettes. But the sleek, smooth shape, crested head, and black mask lined with white were clear.  Then I realized there were many more than the few in the birches. The leaves of the two red maples were fluttering and bustling with Cedar Waxwings. A few perched in the branches, but most of them seemed to be unsettled, flapping their wings and moving around. It was impossible to count them all, but many more than a dozen.

Its good to have them back – both for their icy beauty and for the sprays of thin, high calls that add their part to the fall and winter soundscape again.