Friday, December 14, 2007

WAXWINGS ON THE WING


I love Cedar Waxwings. Next to the Wood Duck, they are some of our most beautiful birds. They are elegant and dignified in a way that other birds are not and their flocking behavior is a real treat to watch. They have been regular visitors to UCLA this year, too. I first noticed them in January and the last time I saw them was Dec. 5. On November 13, I observed a flock of over 100 of them swarming around in the Rusty Leaf Fig at the front of the Law Bldg., feeding on the pea-sized fruit. But perhaps the most magical sighting of all was early one morning when I saw about 50 of them sitting in the topmost branches of a eucalyptus tree, and all of them turned towards the rising sun, their yellow breast seemingly aglow. It was an incredibly beautiful sight.


This shot was the next in sequence from the one above and has been altered to give it a more mystical feel.

Cedar Waxwings are quite common in the L. A. area, but few folks recognize them or even see them; they often stay hidden in a densley-leafed tree. On somewhat rarer occassions they will perch in bare trees such as the one above and on the fig mentioned previously, which had lost most of its leaves. One will often hear them rather than see them; their high-pitched squealing call makes it unmistakeable for any other bird.

The photos above were taken in Culver City in January 2004, on an overcast, chilly day. I was surprised to see them, but I think there is alarge flock that are year-round residents of the West Los Angeles area because I tend to see them almost every month of the year either at home or up on campus. A recent check of the Cornell Ornithology website shows a range map for them that this particular group seems to contradict. But our winters are getting milder and milder, so it is possible that they have simply adapted to our climate. My list of sightings for the past year logs them for every month.

If you would like to know more about this magificent and elegent bird, please visit the Cornell website's listing for lots of cool facts, photos, and song recordings:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Cedar_Waxwing_dtl.html

[Blog soundtrack: David Gilmour: "Where We Start" Pink Floyd: "One Slip" "Sorrow" "Marooned"]

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