Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Hail of Cedar Waxwings

I was awakened today by the sound of rain falling on the tin roof, and of someone sporadically throwing lumps of something at the back windows. The former wasn't so strange, but the latter got my attention. I climbed out of bed to stare out of the back windows, only to find that it wasn't raining at all, and nobody was throwing anything. Instead, the air around my bird feeder was filled with streams of small birds going back and forth between perches in the overhanging trees, and the large water dish I provide in lieu of a bird bath. They were all cedar waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, and there were several hundred of them. The sound of rain on the tin roof was actually the sound of their berry-blue droppings continuously striking the roof. The thuds on the windows were from the occasional bird that took off from the water dish and collided with a window. They were moving too slowly to be hurt by their impacts, and none so much as lost altitude, though many left mouthfuls of water running down the windows.

I watched this spectacle for at least fifteen minutes, observing the steadily declining water level in the dish. Filled the night before, the water dish was nearly empty by the time the flock's thirst had finally been quenched. I snuck out slowly and opened the spigot that refils the dish to see if they'd repeat the performance, but no joy. They'd done all of the ingesting and excreting they'd come to do, and were not to be tempted to linger any longer. Soon, they streamed away, probably in search of the next berry bearing tree. Come this spring, I will probably find a number of those trees sprouting around the bird feeder, fulfilling the plan first laid by their ancestors at the dawn of the Cretaceous.

When the sound of actual rain was heard on the tin roof later in the day, the water ran from the downspouts in berry blue.

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