Posts Tagged ‘cedar waxwings’

“Accept that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.” – David Brent.

A Poem for a Bird-Watching Artist

John James Audubon’s painting of a cedar waxwing.

She called herself an SOB – Spouse of Birder. It was a humid, hot mosquito day and she had tagged along with her passionate birder husband – and wasn’t enjoying herself at all.

I felt sorry for her. We avid birders really are a queer lot, as poet Stephen Vincent Benet noted in the 1800s. In our passionate pursuit of the next bird we’ll see, we forget that not everyone enjoys spending the day in a buggy swamp, or likes to get up at 3 a.m. to hike to a place so they can see a red-cockaded woodpecker at dawn, or stand patiently for hours in hopes a rare bird will appear.

The SOB finally went off and found a comfortable spot to read, while we birders continued down the trail this day at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas.

A second painting of cedar waxwings by John James Audubon

It wasn’t either hot or buggy yesterday morning, however, when I spotted my first cedar waxwing here at Lake Walcott. This bird with its rakish mask and lemon-yellow, rosy-brown and cool-gray feathers is always a treat to spot.

The waxwing, the first of many I’m sure I will see before I leave the park, was sitting on a limb in plain sight of the trail, which my canine traveling companion, Pepper, and I were taking for our first walk of the day.

I had my camera in my pocket, but my the time I got Pepper under control on the leash, and was ready to snap a photo, the bird had flown. Drats. I was left without a photo for my blog.

Back at my RV, I put my thinking cap on and came up with the idea of using John James Audubon’s painting of a cedar waxwing to illustrate my words. I typed in Audubon and waxwing and hit search. Up popped Benet’s poem titled, John James Audubon, which is what got me thinking about the SOB incident.

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Hundreds of cedar waxwings swooped from the sky and landed in the tree tops as Maggie and I walked past them this morning. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “Happiness isn’t getting what you want, it is wanting what you got.” Garth Brooks

 Travels With Maggie It’s cool, damp and overcast here in Central Texas this morning. No sliver of golden sun, or even a rose-tinted cloud to brighten the day.

 The birds, however, seem to love it.

 I watched a pair of northern cardinals, a scarlet male and a yellow and red female, chase each other around a row of cedar trees outside my RV. A chatty mockingbird watched the courtship from a utility line above the trees, then flew off, perhaps in search of its own soul-mate.

The cardinals’ splash of color helped make up for the missing sunrise. But it wasn’t until later, after my dog, Maggie, finally woke and demanded her morning walk, that the day truly seemed cheery. Hundreds of cedar waxwings swooped down and settled in the tops of several trees our walk took us past.  Immediately they began calling back and forth among themselves, filling the air with bird twitter.

Cedar Waxwing -- Photo by Ken Thomas ( http://kenthomas.us/ )

 The light was such that the birds seemed little more than dark blobs against a gray sky. A look at them through my binoculars added a bit of their color, but my knowledge and imagination had to add the rest.

Cedar waxwings are striking birds with fancy crests, rosy-brown heads and yellow bellies. Red splotches on their wings, yellow on their tail tips and a black mask across their eyes make them look as if they’ve dressed in their best feathers for a masquerade ball.

 They’re actually the partying kind. I can’t recall ever seeing just one cedar waxwing.

 These birds only visit Texas in the winter. They migrate north for the summer. Smart birds. Come warmer weather, Texans will be yearning for a cool, damp, overcast morning like today.

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Have you ever taken the time to look into a deer's eyes. Perhaps you should. -- Photo by Pat Bean

”  Though it sounds absurd, it is true to say I felt younger at sixty than I felt at twenty.” — Ellen Glasgow, “The Woman Within”  

Travels With Maggie

 There have been many thrilling minutes in my life. When I was young, I watched my babies breathe in and out as they lay asleep, and felt the grasp of their tiny hands around my fingers. Each of their achievements – from taking their first steps to bringing home their first paycheck, made my heart sing with joy.

After my babies had flown the coop, I was free to chase other thrills, like rafting the grand canyon, going on a safari in Africa, and even jumping out of an airplane. It would not be unfair to say that I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie.

But when I took my dog Maggie on her walk this morning, I felt more alive than I think I have ever felt before.

The sky was full of puffy rose and lavender tinted clouds that let one know the sun had risen even if it wasn’t visible this overcast day. A cool breeze stirred the hair on my bare arms, but I wasn’t cold. The caress on my skin felt like a gentle lover’s touch, one I never wanted to stop

The purple buds on this mailbox cactus appear to be straining for warmer weather so they can burst forth in joyous blooms. -- Photo by Pat Bean


I wasn’t alone in my enjoyment of the moment. The coolness gave Maggie, now 13, a briskness to her steps that, like mine, have begun to slow. She walked with ears flapping in the wind, and her short cocker-spaniel tail, straight up, a signal to the world that she’s in charge.

I was vividly aware of everything around me, the cedar waxwings crowding the leafless branches of an oak tree, the straining purple buds on a huge cactus in a mailbox planter, the eyes of a deer staring at me as I approached and a single dandelion in a winter brown yard.

In my younger days, I would have probably only seen the deer, and even then would not have taken the time to look into its eyes and make the connection I did this day.

While a few of the older female writers I’ve been reading lately, like Diana Athill in “Somewhere Toward the End,” spend too many of their words bemoaning what age has taken from them, I have nary a complaint.

With age has come acceptance of myself, deeper understanding of how the world works, and the wisdom to know that the simply things in life can be as thrilling as getting to the top of the mountain.

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