Glorious Springtime is in full swing here in the Piney Woods of East Texas. While every season has its fine characteristics, nothing beats Spring for the welcome return of blossom colors, breeding season bird song, and balmier temperatures. The sun’s rising arc, shining through the new tree foliage, with its resulting shadow play on everything below it, just makes our landscapes fresh and new again. The birds seem to echo this joy in the long, magnificent birdsong we hear daily now. The time has come for the birds’ pairing up, male and female, and the nest building has begun.
Our winter visitors have departed. The goldfinches said goodbye quite a few weeks ago, and our brown thrasher as well. Now is the time of expectation and anticipation of our returning woods edge inhabitants, as well as our spring migration visitors. I put out our cleaned and newly filled hummingbird feeders on Good Friday, actually a little later than recommended, and, like a small child finding her first Easter egg on an egg hunt, gasped excitedly on Easter afternoon, when I spotted a hummingbird scout darting around one feeder, drinking, buzzing onto a nearby branch, and then darting over to a recently blossoming salvia plant to indulge in its sweet libation. O, happy day!!
Seeing the returning birds does a nature-loving body good. Watching their antics is an unexpected pleasure that is addicting. One of my most memorable moments to date in 2016, is the show put on by our seemingly tremendous flock of neighborhood Cedar Waxwings. While they are here, eating in a feeding frenzy the berries from the trees and bushes along the wood’s edge and creek, flocking and flying in huge numbers, and performing acrobatic feats while hanging from the tree branches to gulp down whole berries, we marvel at their beauty and their social gatherings. They are magnificent birds, not in size, but in their colors and behavior. Their black mask and chin is striking – reminding me of the Batman masks children wore proudly in the 1960’s. There’s an ethereal silkiness to the sheen of their feathers – soft tans and grays and yellows of the head, the wings and the underbelly, in sharp contrast with the bright yellow tail tip, the white outline of the facial mask, and the surprising red wing tips from which they receive the name “waxwing”- found on some of the birds’ secondary wing tips. One of their favorite berry meals in wintertime, is the cedar berry, which explains the first part of their name. They also wear a crest upon their head, very much like a Cardinal’s, but the crest appears down more often than up.
One early afternoon, the flock discovered our berry-rich holly bush in front, and by the time these hungry birds had finished, the bush went from berry covered, to berry bare. What a sight to see the bush quivering with countless Cedar Waxwings, all gorging themselves on the holly berries. I don’t know how much longer these fruit-eaters will hang around our neighborhood, but it surely has been a pleasure to enjoy their presence over the last few weeks. Theirs has been a yearly visit we always look forward to, and, although we may not have the privilege of sharing our habitat with them for very long, I hope we can continue to count on their spring visit for years to come.