The Birds That Got Away

One of the things I was counting on to give me an edge over Clay in our Digiscoping Duel was this mountain ash tree (or rowan as Mr. Neil calls it).  It's ripe and the berries time perfectly with fall migration.

This tree can be loaded with all sorts of birds like the above female rose-breasted grosbeak and I did get shots of cedar waxwings right away, but as soon as the contest was over, all sorts of species flew in for a feast.  The light hit the tree perfectly, so I stuck around after the contest was finished to get some shots.

Of course there were more waxwings.  My first photo wasn't bad but they practically seemed to be posing now that the contest was over.  Above is an adult cedar waxwing.

The younger waxwings that were hatched this summer will be stripey.  If you have waxwings in your neighborhood, take a moment to watch them in your fruit trees--they attack the fruits and berries with such verve.  They don't come to bird feeders--they don't seem to have any interest in sunflowers and millet.  They will come in to birdbaths and you generally don't get one at a time, you get thirty (at least).

I love watching them gulp berries.  These small, slender birds are easy to miss in tree branches.  Even their calls blend in well if you are tuned into them.  Here's a link to waxwing calls so you can know what they sound like.

Among the waxwings was this Tennessee warbler (dude, where were you during the digiscoping challenge--arg).  Especially after the dreadfully blurry and ghostly image of that black and white.  Ah well, win some, lose some.

Too small to grab a whole ash berry and gulp it, this bird used its dainty bill to pierce the skins to get at the juice on the inside.

The next bird that popped up was a male scarlet tanager already in his winter plumage--really, tanager, you're killing me here.  I will say this, even though I tried to use a fence and bush to break up my silhouette from the sun behind me, it felt very cagey with my scope aimed on it.  It ate three berries and flew off.

Even though I already had a photo of an eastern bluebird, I was sorry I couldn't use this shot of a juvenile molting into its adult plumage.

Here was another heart-breaking shot--far better than the image I got during the actual contest of a red-eyed vireo.  Alas.  I still had a tough time getting a shot of this bird.  Vireos are known for their ability to flit about the top of a tree canopy and sing nonstop.  The bird kept moving around so much in the tree that it had trouble stopping long enough to eat some berry.  I always thought accipiters like Cooper's hawks and goshawks were ADD birds, but I suspect the vireo is even worst.  Constant movement is a good strategy--good way to sneak up on insects and confust potential predators.  Just makes going for stationary berries a challenge.

This tree is a good example of providing food for birds and other wildlife in your yard besides just bird feeders and water sources and it's part of what makes Mr. Neil's yard so fun for me to watch birds in and take their pictures.

To see more photos of the Digiscoping Duel, check the Flickr Album.