Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Flock of Cedar Waxwings and a Soaring Cooper’s Hawk

This morning a heavy frost turned the grass white, and sheets of ice covered the bird baths. The early morning was clear, cold, sunny and bright, and sunlight filtered through the thinning leaves of brown, yellow and orange in the woods. The White Oaks that rise over our roofline and fill the windows on the southern side of our house have turned an unusually rich reddish-brown.

As I walked up the driveway for the paper, I heard the ank-ank-ank calls of at least two Red-breasted Nuthatches, which have become a regular, daily part of the scene now. They are frequent visitors to the feeders, and I hear their calls off and on all day. Chickadees and Titmice chattered, a Red-bellied Woodpecker rattled, and one White-throated Sparrow sang from somewhere deep in the wax myrtles, while others called tseet. A Northern Flicker called a loud kleer!

A pair of Cardinals perched in the bare limbs of a Crape Myrtle, and a female Downy Woodpecker sat on a branch of a pecan tree, framed in yellow leaves. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker arrived with a mew and immediately began to tap on the trunk of an oak, and two Brown-headed Nuthatches flew to one of the feeders, squeaking loudly to each other.

Then I heard the high, thin, needle-like calls of Cedar Waxwings, and looked up in time to see a small flock of about 15 flying from one treetop to another, looking like a handful of flashing sparks against the blue sky. These are the first Cedar Waxwings I’ve heard or seen here this season.

Later in the morning, as I walked through the neighborhood, two Turkey Vultures and two Black Vultures soared in a big, soft blue sky traced with cirrus clouds. Several Crows harassed a Red-tailed Hawk, chasing it, cawing and diving toward it repeatedly. I couldn’t tell if they actually made contact or not. The Hawk veered away, speeded up to avoid them, banked, turned, and finally seemed to fly away from them.

As I came to the crest of a hill, I saw another raptor, this one with a long, narrow tail and a breast that glowed red in the sunlight – a Cooper’s hawk. It was circling and climbing, and the white under the reddish breast was pronounced against the dark of the tail. Once it flapped several times, but as it climbed higher, it held its wings outspread and the tail fanned out. I stood watching for several minutes, until my neck hurt and the hawk was only a speck like an eyelash way up in the sky.


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