The best I could do with my little camera to capture our Visitors
There’s been a flock of cedar wax wings here at Crazyland for two days now. They fly in small ramparts from the black walnut trees they’ve been roosting in, to our huge holly bushes that screen my well house, where they flutter, pick berries, and then swoop back up into the trees, where another rampart of wax wings is released to get their turn with the berries. This swooping down and up goes on all day and the birds are very chatty, even when they are flying. It’s like a relay race.
I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel to have the wax wings staying with us. North Carolina is just a stop along their annual migration route. Some years I don’t even get a glimpse of them, and some years, I see them perhaps for an hour or so, they blast through, find nothing here that interests them, and they are gone. But this year is unlike any other because they have roosted here for not just one night, but two, and there is this small hopeful part of me that wants to believe they intend to stay the summer, that the poles have shifted so that they are inclined to settle right here. But I know that the berries will be devoured quite soon enough, and the beautiful wax wings will fold up their camp chairs, and hit the sky ways again.
Cedar Wax Wings are perhaps the most dignified and handsomest bird there is -- they sport a very military costume of khaki and gray, with bars of white, medals of red and yellow, rusty cheeks, and black war paint sharply defining their eyes -- there is nothing soft or downy about a wax wing, they are tidy fit birds.
My first encounter with a flock of wax wings was some twenty years ago, while sitting in my tiny rental house in Carrboro, NC. We had a great pyracantha tree that grew next to our front door -- it's spiky branches were woven into the wrought iron supports of our little concrete stoop. My then young hound dog Jack frequently ate the berries off the lower branches, a habit we found bewildering until someone told us the berries contained a toxin that was capable of providing a very nice “high” for any creature that might venture to eat the berries. Jack was a berry lush it turned out. Years later he would take to eating loquats from a tree in our yard in Bermuda, he would stand on his hind legs to pick the loquats, and carefully eat the fruit while leaving the pit, which was poisonous. Jack was not only a berry lush, he was a very adept fruit and nut eater -- he could even shell peanuts.
But there was one spring day when the wax wings descended upon my stoop and like a scene out of Hitchcock’s The Birds they engulfed our pyracantha and denuded it of every berry upon it’s branches and I sat there with Jack inside the screen door with my mouth agape and in complete awe of these spectacular birds whom I had never seen before. There must have been 40 or so birds and they took less than a half hour to undress my pyracantha and then they swooped away, and I came to find from the twitchers I was lucky enough to know at work that this was what these birds do -- they migrate every spring and fall and they swoop in, take all your berries and leave you with nothing but the clear impression that they are living a much more wonderful life than you are.