A photographic journal exploring the smaller--and often overlooked!--natural wonders encountered "off the beaten path" at the Virginia Living Museum. New entries posted every two weeks.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
It was a dark and stormy night....just kidding! It was actually a cold, overcast morning (March 1, 2013) when a whole flock of cedar waxwings mobbed the Museum grounds in search of food. I observed them eating a variety of berries: holly berries, viburnum berries, hawthorn berries, winterberries. I could definitely see why they're considered "frugivores" or fruit-eaters! (But they are also known to eat a lot of insects in warmer months.) Armed with my Nikon D7000 and a Nikkor 18-300mm lens I carefully stalked the flock, consisting of about 40-50 individuals. They were very skittish and would quickly sweep back into the treetops if anyone got too close. At one point I planted myself behind our waterfall rock outcropping with just the barrel on my lens peeking over the top of the rocks to get a view of these gorgeous birds. Here they're stripping dark blue viburnum berries off the twigs at a frighteningly fast pace:
I watched them hover and pluck a berry without landing on the twig, and also they'd hang upside down from a twig and pluck berries! They are known to become "intoxicated" on berries that have fermented (and consequently have a high alcohol content) but I didn't see any of them appear to be "drunk." Mostly I watched them pluck berries off plants with quick precision and ease--they gave one swift tug on a berry then swallowed it whole.
I love how cedar waxwings have a such complex coloring: a blend of subtle soft grays on the wings, back and tail blending to a pale "cinnamon" brown dusting the head and shoulders--sometimes their crest is up, but most of the birds I saw had their crest lay almost flat back on the head. A soft lemon-yellow blush on the lower belly contrasts with the almost neon yellow tail tips and the strikingly brilliant "waxy" red tips of their secondary wing feathers--these are acquired as a bird gets older. The sharp black mask on the face is lined with crisp white edges, and their dark eyes glint within this mask--sparkling a deep blackish brown.
What a spectacular treat--I was very glad to have my camera with me that day! So, here's looking at you....
More off the beaten path in two weeks!