Birding Notes

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cedar Waxwings and Persimmons

On a gray, foggy, damp, dreary morning, a flock of Cedar Waxwings filled the branches of an old persimmon tree near the road. There were at least two or three dozen Waxwings, coming and going from other trees nearby and perched in the branches eating the fruit. Along with their high, thin calls, there was the sound of soft thuds as persimmon fruits fell from the tree onto the grass. The Waxwings ate by tearing bites from the fruit, and many of the fruits fell as they did, but I didn’t see any birds eating on the ground. There seemed to be plenty of other fruits still clinging to the tree. The Cedar Waxwings were so absorbed in eating, I stood almost right under them for several minutes, watching, and admiring the satin-brown breasts, crested heads, black masks outlined in white, wax-yellow tip of their gray tails, and the white markings on their folded wings in back.

The bleak weather made the day and the surroundings feel muted or muffled, and not even the bright, cheery song of a Carolina Wren was enough to dispel the mood. When I first stepped outside, the world seemed quiet and almost empty of life, with the bare limbs of hardwoods and the skeletons of dead pines forming the background all around, drenched brown leaves thick on the ground, broken branches fallen here and there, and the shrubs a drooping, drab gray-green.

Gradually, sounds and movement emerged here and there. Several Chickadees and Titmice arrived to chatter around the feeders in the front yard, and I heard the calls of White-throated Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, and Red-bellied Woodpecker, and the repeated, sharp calls and tapping of a Hairy Woodpecker working in the dead pines on the edge of the woods out back.

In the thickets at the corner of two streets in our neighborhood, a Downy Woodpecker and a few Chipping Sparrows and Juncos foraged, and Yellow-rumped Warblers flitted in and out of the two tall Leyland Cypress trees there. A Northern Flicker called a loud Kleer! Crows passed over in groups of four or five or six. A Yellow-breasted Sapsucker mewed somewhere way in the distance.

The best surprise of the day was a Pine Warbler singing in the bleak gray woods across the street from our house.


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