Holy Crap! As I'm starting this entry, I'm sitting on our couch which faces the windows in our apartment. An adult Cooper's hawk has just landed on a wire outside the window and we are pretty much face to face. The hawk is having a tough time, she wants to focus on the pigeons eating near my feeder, but with the lights on in my apartment, she has also noticed the human facing her. I wonder if I can reach for my camera without her flying away? Nope. She just flew. Cool start to the morning though! Now, on to cedar waxwings:
Here is a cedar waxwing eating berries off of a showy mountain ash, or as Mr. Neil calls them, rowan trees. Now that there are great birds established on his land and thriving honey bees, we're trying to find ways to help both out by improving the quality of the surrounding woods.
The woods have some great plants, but some invasive buchthorn is moving in which in a few years will choke out all the great native plants like Jack-in-the-Pulpit and sumac. So, I know from reading books what plants birds like, but I don't have much in the way of practical knowledge--it's hard to put that into practice in a one bedroom apartment, but helping with the project will let me put some of that book learnin' to use. I found a nursery near Carpenter Nature Center that specializes in native plant landscaping called Out Back Nursery. The first time I went there just to look around, I noticed a guy named Pete staring at some pots of soil and some plant growth. After a few minutes, I went over and asked what he was up to and he replied, "My mix. There's something I'm doing wrong with my mix. These aren't growing the way they're supposed to, so I'm trying to figure out what I need to change in my soil mix."
That is my kind of guy--he feels about native plants the way I feel about birds. I found the right nursery. I also like how they group some of their displays by habitat. If you want to turn your yard into oak savanna, they have a whole grouping of the types of native plants that you would need for an oak savanna habitat. Nice! I highly recommend this place if you're looking for some native plant ideas.
So, I've gotten some trees from them to put in this fall, including this showy mountain ash that had a few berries left on it. The waxwings found it on Sunday. It was SO cool. Sunday, the light was perfect and the autumn leaves made for a lovely background for photos. I spent most of the day outside coughing and digiscoping. I watched a small flock of cedar waxwings fly over, kind of slow in mid flap, and circle over the feeding area--some bird in that flock noticed the bright berries. They circled a second time and landed high in an oak, carefully scanning the area for predators. After a few minutes, one by one, they descended on the showy mountain ash. The adult in the above photo is being watched by a younger waxwing.
The first two berries went down quickly, but there was some hesitation going for the last. Was the bird getting full? Had it eaten too much? But, never to leave an uneaten berry go uneaten, the young waxwing took the last berry.
Sure enough the bird's crop was bulging with berries after eating that last bite. See the pinkish blob along the neck? It may look like this bird has a huge tumor, but it's just a muscular pouch (now full of ash berries) used to store food awaiting digestion.