2018 seems to be The Year Of Cedar Waxwing; at least in our part of the world.
They timed their arrival with ripening of Saskatoons - the dark blue berries ripening on medium-sized bushes growing wild all over the Canadian West.
The berries were still green but the birds did not seem to mind. The first crop of the year and a beginning of what looks like a rich season.
Never mind - they will ripen fast with loads of other fruits to follow - cherries, both cultivated and wild, strawberries and blueberries, mountain ash fruits and more.
|Saskatoon Berry (also called Service Berry) is an important source of food for countless creatures, including humans.|
They are handsome birds, sleek, smooth feathered in elegant colours of browns on top, yellowish on the belly and tinged by gray with a hint of blue on the back.
All that beauty is accented by a black face mask (outlined in pure white), white linings in the wings, bright yellow hem on the tail and - above all - bright red ends of their flight feathers that, at the rest, give an impression of the wings being dipped in the old fashioned seal wax.
Oh, and there is a crown of feathers that rise up when the bird is excited.
What a fashion statement!
But wait, nothing in Nature is about vanity. Try to find a waxwing hiding in the canopy of cedars (Thuja) or Douglas Firs, Spruces or other conifers. Good luck searching; especially when the sun is shining and the shadows and higlights are at their best..
Cedar Waxwings have a close family - their cousins Bohemian Waxwings are a bit chubbier though a bit more fancy. They prefer to spend their summers in Northern parts of the globe. But when the winter gets tough and food is scarce they move a bit South, sometimes in very large flocks. Then they mingle with their grabby Cedar relatives.
Vegan diet might suit some, but most creatures require an occasional protein supplement. Waxwings are no exception.
I was trying to capture an image of a waxwing in flight and worked at it really hard. The light was great that morning so when I finally got my wish, I was ecstatic.
I ran home to check the images (for there were many, many clicks) on my computer and - oh, my goodness - there was more to the photo than I thought.
The bird was trying to get an orb spider who, in turn, had been trying to capture its dinner... a fly or a moth.
Eat and be eaten!
That is the survival game.
With the spider gone the newly hatched river moths will be safe tonight.
But only if the bird doesn't get them too.
|Caddisflies came out in countless numbers. They dance their evening dances, mate in the air and provide meals to many nesting birds. Enough of them will manage to lay their eggs before they die.|
June is a great time to plan a family. At the end of June a Mamma waxwing built her nest in a pine hedge by our basement door. It seems to me that while she was building, her partner stuck about; serving as an alarm system for her. I am not sure if or how much he helped with the nest building but as soon as she started laying the eggs he vanished. This was on June 24.
Despite the fact that the nest was straight in front of my face, it was hidden so well that I would have never found it. It was the harsh noon sun that betrayed the diligent waxwing female. A bright sparkle in her watchful eye gave her away.
A couple days later she had 4 elegant eggs in the nest. We tiptoed by as little as we had to and she began to understand that we were not to harm her or her nest.
July 14; the nest is bursting at the seams - and that is only the beginning. There are 4 tiny, bling creatures huddled together in their skillfully woven home. The daytime temperatures are soaring high, well into the 30 Celsius. And there is not a cloud in the sky.
Yesterday we saw Mamma standing guard above the chicks - her wings spread wide, creating shade. This is only a beginning; we guess that she has at least 10 more days to go. A long time in life of a little bird.
Meanwhile, the fruits are ripening - blueberries, raspberries, cherries, even mountain ash berries are turning red. A large Nature buffet, free for all and at an easy reach. It looks like the little ones will have enough to eat. Is she going to feed them on her own or is her partner coming back to help? Let us wait, perhaps the answer will present itself soon.
In any case, there are busy times ahead