After a mild beginning to the winter season, the weather during the past two weeks has been more typical of mid-January. Winter storms dropped about two feet of snow on the city, freezing rain knocked out the power two nights ago and coated everything with ice, and temperatures have been yoyo-ing between near-zero and -20°C. Last weekend was extremely cold, and with the windchill making the temperature feel closer to -30°C, I decided to stay indoors.
As I hadn’t been out in over a week, I was starting to suffer from symptoms of nature deficit. In order to remedy this, I decided to go to Hurdman at lunch yesterday to try again for the Barrow’s Goldeneye. I wasn’t entirely surprised to find that amount of open water west of the 417 bridge had shrunk to a large puddle, but the absence of any diving ducks taking advantage of this puddle was unexpected.
There were, however, other birds present which more than made up for the lack of ducks. There are a large number of buckthorn shrubs at the trail entrance, and as I approached a robin flew out of the bush and across the path. This wasn’t entirely unexpected as I’ve seen or heard robins on almost all of my visits to Hurdman this winter. When three smaller birds flew out of the bush as well I was a little more surprised, and as soon as I heard their calls I realized they were waxwings. Immediately I sought them with my binoculars and noticed the bright yellow of their bellies. These were Cedar Waxwings, then, and not Bohemian Waxwings as I had hoped.
I followed the feeder path through the woods, and not only were there still no feeders, this time I found only a couple of chickadees. However, I could hear a House Finch calling and made my way to the bike path. There I found some birds – a lot more birds! About ten European Starlings were feeding on buckthorn berries right at eye level. Cedar Waxwings were flying back and forth, landing in other buckthorn shrubs; I counted at least two dozen! More robins were eating the berries, and somewhere near the top of the trees I heard a male House Finch burst into song. Chickadees, too, flew over to me when they saw me, so I sprinkled some seed on the snow bank.
It was the waxwings, however, that captivated me. With the exception of a single bird seen on November 21, 2011, I haven’t noticed any around Hurdman since early October. In fact, these were the first Cedar Waxwings I’ve seen since that November day, making them a good find for both my winter list and my 2012 year list!
Although neither the robins nor the starlings came to feed out in the open, a few waxwings flew in and landed right in front of me. I managed to grab this shot of one of them reaching up to snatch a berry above its head, but by the time I clicked the shutter again, the waxwing had already grabbed and eaten it!
This is my favourite photo from yesterday:
This outing, although short, was more enjoyable than I had expected. The yellow of the waxwings and reds of the robins and the male House Finch added colour and cheer to an otherwise dreary, gray January day, and hearing the song of the House Finch even in the depths of winter caused my spirits to soar.