Thursday, May 1, 2008


High: 61 F
Low: 34 F
Conditions: Partly cloudy with light northwest wind.

It was the caninaturalist who first noticed the birds. A flock of ten—maybe twelve. All dun-colored, distinguished at first only by their prominent crests. As they flew past, Ari stopped our walk, turning her head sharply to the left and following the movement of the band as they flitted out of range. I caught a glimpse of them just as they settled high in a tree. My first thoughts alit on the parochial: a band of cardinals, perhaps on their way north, south or westward? It certainly seemed believable. But these were birds uniformly colored—not a bright red male among them. Sapphic females? Possible, if Ancient Greek playwrights could have their way. I tried to imagine what a travelling group of all-female birds might look and act like, but the only thing that came to mind were scenes from Octopussy. Without Roger Moore nearby, this seemed unlikely.

We decided to investigate further, and Ari led us over to the flock of shrilling birds. They looked at her with interest, but didn’t seem concerned. I tried to get them to pose for a decent photo shot, but they stayed tucked behind branches, adjusting their position each time I got near.
Frustrating. The caninaturalist tried a playbow and hopeful bark. No luck. We stayed there for almost an hour, watching and waiting and trying to figure out who these visiting birds might be: dusty brown, that prominent crown, a thick black eye mask and matching Van Dyke. Eventually, Ari got bored. I remained stumped.

Back at home, Ari moved onto more pressing inquiries, like trying to fish Mouse the Cat out from under the new sofa. This diversion created a much-needed opportunity for some ornithological research. I flipped through our worn old field guide, realizing how enormous the “perching birds” section of this book really is. And then, just when I was about to give up, I saw the image:

The bohemian waxwing, Bombycilla garrulous. So named because they are famous for traipsing all over the boreal forest, like European gypsies or half of my college students. We admit that's delightful. But here’s the thing: we don’t live in the boreal forest. We live at least a thousand miles to the south and east. So what were these gallivanting waxwings doing in the tree across the street?
Turns out, they are part of the same irruption that has been sending northern owls our way, too. According to our state biologists, the waxwings have decided to set up camp here until the seed population returns in the boreal forest.

We’re not happy to hear about the food collapse further north, but we're glad to have these northern visitors. Each time we walk by that spot, Ari cranes her neck long, looking for these visitors. We haven’t seen them again yet, but at least one of us plans to keep searching.


Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

Great skhouting work Ari!

We had our nature up khlose experience Thursday evening - I'll get my mom to shake the pikhs from the khamera Friday when she khomes home from work!!

Hope woo are staying dry and safe? I've heard Maine is VERY wet with flooding in spots -


Lorenza said...

Hi, Ari!
I've never seen those birds! They are beautiful!
I like to chase birds! But I am not fast enough!
Kisses and hugs

Me & my puppies said...

Great sighting of a beautiful bird. ~ thanks for sharing.

John Theberge said...

Lucky for you that you got to see the boreal waxwings. I usually see the cedar waxwings around here in the late summer.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful picture of Ari!

Oh, and the birds, too. I've seen cedar waxwings in the area over the past few years. Eating berries off of the viburnums, upside down!


Mary said...

Waxwings are so pretty we sometimes get them overwintering from Europe.

Eve said...

We too are more used to the cedar waxwings...they are so fun to have around. But one year I looked out my window and thought "oh cedar sweet" but something just looked different. At closer inspection I realized they were bohemian waxwings and I went through the roof!! Well haha not through it but you know what I mean.
Nice work guys!!! And very funny too!!

Turbo the Sibe said...

Cool birds! We've been having some unusual birds at our place too, but my Human has not identified them yet.

Gary,Charity,Katie&Louis said...

Great bird sighting! Thanks for sharing.

What kind of harness is Ari wearing? I've never seen one like that.

The Daily Echo said...

That's a very unique looking bird. Ari, you need to thank your Mom for taking such spectacular pictures of you.

Kapp pack said...

I am so jealous that you get to spend so much time exploring nature. We learn so much from you!

Kisses, Sky boy

umekotyan said...

Good evening Ari.
It is a changeable bird.
It is beautiful head.
The bird eats fruits.
And, various seeds are dropped.
The forest where the plant is abundant prospers voluntarily.
A wonderful weekend with the camp. :)

from loved ume tyan

The Army of Four said...

Oooh, how pretty! I've never heard of Bohemian Waxwings! We have the Cedar Waxwings stop by here and they're quite lovely!
Dave and I saw some quails yesterday on our walk. We sort of surprised them and they all took off together. Too bad Mom didn't have the camera!
Tail wags,

Stacey Huston said...

Ari and you make a pretty good pair. beautiful photos and great info.. thanks for sharing

Blue said...

Coming to aplogise...
I'm, a lousy blogger, I DO read regularly but comment not - SORRY!

Pats &pets

Southbay Girl said...

Hi Ari,
Yea!!! Wildlife and spring is returning to maine!!! I'm so glad you got to bark at the birds-I'm sorry they didn't cooperate but at least your mom found out what they were! I hope you are having a fun-filled sunday!


Gus and Louie said...

You have some awesome visitors in your yard.

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Tracey said...

Hi Katherine and Ari

Thanks for visiting my blog! We never get any good birds in my backyard, that's either because I live in the city and they don't, or because Salvador chases them away. He is mean.

Huffle Mawson, Honorary Husky and Explorer Cat

JB's Big World said...

Those are some pretty birds. I don't know if we have them here. We have been getting a lot of wildlife in our yard near our bird feeder and not just birds. I posted a few pics on my small world blog's last couple of was not fond of the last ones....armadillos! They wrecked mom's yard looking for grubs!

Sandpiper said...

Beautiful birds! We see the Cedar Waxwings here in CT now and then. We never used to see them at all, but they are becoming more common.

Marigold said...

Ah! We, too, have the Cedar Waxwings. Lucky you to see the Bohemians, which I am given to understand are larger. We've heard that the Bohemians sometimes make an appearance, but rarely in this area. Still, if the budding ornithological caninaturalist, Cabra, finds any deceased specimens, we'll be sure and let you know.

powder-puff said...

Hey Ari!!

O what a cool bird!!
It looks so pretty, i wish we got birds like that here in Texas!!

But all we have now is annoying crows!

lots of love

The Daily Echo said...

Ari - check out my blog. I've tagged woo!