Getting Outside Saturday: No Country for Waxwings

categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside


Illegal to own, but not to photograph.


Yesterday morning I spotted Cedar Waxwings, not unusual, though I thought maybe they’d have left by now. And they seemed too big, too upright and sleek, a flock of ten or so, the cheerful tittering familiar, but one notch louder than you’d think.  So I glassed ’em.  In the binoculars, I saw they were Bohemian Waxwings, who will brighten our winter.  Back early from parts north and hot on the fall berries.  Maybe pickings were slim after a dry summer up tundra-wise.  Later, a nice view of a broad-winged hawk lazing on the currents of heat rising from the fields, kind of late staying, this year (we haven’t even had close to a frost, which even just 20 years ago came regularly in late August.  Not that I’m complaining).  On this morning’s walk, evidence of their meeting: a pile of feathers around a log in the woods.  It didn’t take long for CSI Farmington to figure it out.  The secondary wing feathers here are about actual size, 2.5 to 3 inches in length.  The blue-gray, the yellow tips, that’s Bohemian.  Not a trace of bird, no feet, no beak, no bones, just feathers, very delicate, very soft to the touch.  Illegal to possess, a good law, as the collection of feathers for hats at the turn of the last century nearly wiped out all kinds of species, hats with whole birds, some of them.  So an index card, a photograph, and return all feathers to the scene of the crime.  Which is no crime from the Broad-Winged Hawk’s point of view, but only a meal.

Secondary wing feathers (which grew from “forearm” bone)


After the meal

  1. Debora writes:

    Great find!

    I think my dogs ate the Bohos. I should have known, they both were wearing the most gorgeous hats on the promenade, yesterday.

  2. monica wood writes:

    Bohos in September? That is WRONG. Eerie. I don’t like this.

    • Bill writes:

      There have been a lot of ornithological oddities last couple of years… I’m going to start cataloging them!

  3. Kristen writes:

    Those are fabulous photos, Bill! CSI Farmington made me laugh out loud (really, not just the LOL that means you laughed in your head.) I like the quiet mystery in this short piece—where are the bones, where is the beak? Will you stumble upon them further up the trail or will they wash up on the shores of Temple Stream? I also appreciated the eerie undertone (or overtone) here: that the Bohemian is a tiny casualty of the weather, and emblematic of how climate change effects and will continue to effect species whose cycles may have once protected them from such an ending.