Dan took Raven out for her exercise today. When he came back in, he called up to me to say that there was a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings down near our little pond. He said they seemed to be sticking around, so I grabbed my camera and he was kind enough to take me back to where he’d seen them.
When we got back there, they were gone. We paused and listened, wandered around a bit, but there was no sign of them. The only evidence of their passing were little footprints in the snow where they had been coming down to the ground. They’d apparently been doing this while Dan was watching them, but it wasn’t really clear what they were interested in. Today was a somewhat mild day and snow fleas were out in force, so I wonder if they might have been plucking the springtails from the surface of the snow. Although their diet in the winter is mostly fruit, this is primarily because insects are hard to find, and they haven’t adapted to eating seeds.
We wandered back through the woods along the edge of our fields, popping back out near the house. As we started to cross the meadow, Dan paused, thinking he might have heard something. All I heard were feeder birds, tree sparrows, and we took a few more steps before Dan decided no – those really were waxwings he was hearing. Sure enough, a flock – the same ones? – had alighted in a tree on the far side of the house. There were fewer than when he first saw them, so if they were the same, who knows what happened to the rest.
I snuck up to their tree and watched them for a while, taking a few shots from underneath. Then I went back to the house to see if Dan’s video camera was handy, as I wanted to try to record all the noise they were making. Turned out the battery wasn’t charged, so I couldn’t get any video, but when I went back out they’d left the treetop anyway, and were swooping down to the ground on the neighbour’s property.
When I got back over there I could see what they were feeding on. Fallen fruit, probably apples judging from the size of them. They were actually digging them out of the snow and then pulling pieces off once they’d got them to the surface. The ones scattered on the snow have already been pulled out.
They were somewhat flighty, never seeming to stay on the ground more than ten or fifteen seconds at a stretch, but they didn’t go far, just flying up to the top of the apple tree they were feeding under.
I got much better looks at them this encounter than I did last time I saw them (I wonder if these might even be the same group?). Normally they hang out high in the crown of a mature tree, and you’re always looking up at their underside. That’s where we first found them. But of course, when they come down to the ground to feed they’re at eye-level, and even at some distance away it’s still a better view. You can see their yellow lightning stripes much better in these photos.
They’ll probably be here for another month or so, perhaps sticking around into April before they start making their way north to their breeding range. The tundra and northern taiga where they nest will still be frozen well into May. The waxwings won’t start nesting there till late May or early June, by which time some of the birds around here, such as robins, might already be fledging a brood. There’s no rush for the waxwings to be heading back, in any case, so they’ll stay till the snow starts melting here and then follow the melt north.
Since they showed interest in the neighbour’s apples, they might hang around till the fruit are gone. I’ll have to keep an ear open for them.