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Monday, May 18, 2015

A visit from the Cedar Waxwings

After being cooped up in an apartment with no personal yard for the last three years (we had half a porch and a strip of sidewalk in front), my husband and daughters and I were finally able to move in January to a lovely house which has a good-size yard surrounding it. It is beautifully landscaped, full of flowers, and we don't have to share it with anyone. We couldn't be happier. We are all nature lovers and have been spending lots of time outdoors just soaking it in. Being surrounded by green leaves, the air full of the smell of grass and honeysuckle and ringing with bird songs, with my hands in the dirt of the garden--- pure joy, my friends. I needed it. 

The house is a rental, so we can't make any big changes to anything, but we did put in a small raised bed garden in front which I planted with heirloom veggies. It's probably as much as I could handle right now anyway, with a four year old who is going to be home all summer, and a young baby. I just have to go out and water it once a day, and sometimes pull a few stray seedlings that have fallen from some tree in our yard and have landed in everything. 
Raised bed garden planted with organic heirloom veggies: sugar snap peas, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, and spinach, basil, pole beans and bush beans, acorn and yellow squash, beets, radishes, carrots, turnips, bell peppers, and marigolds around the border as a pest repellent. My goal is to be able to make fresh garden salads all summer and also harvest some vegetables to make into food for the baby. 
The yard has some interesting plants and we've had some really wonderful wildlife also. The day before Easter we discovered there are two fat bunnies that live in the hedges around the yard. My daughter has dubbed them Fredrick and Susan. We are hoping they have babies and bring them around. Here is one of our wild bunnies....


The centerpiece of the front lawn is a Japanese Privet tree (a.k.a. Ligustrum Japonicum), and there are two smaller ones as well. It's a striking and odd-looking tree in the winter because it has no leaves but it is covered in lots of blue-purple berries. People always ask what it is. During the winter we had cardinals, robins, mockingbirds, blue jays, woodpeckers... but none of them touched the berries. Then one morning in April, there was a loud twittering outside and we saw at least fifty cedar waxwings in the privet trees and also in the hedges (which have a different kind of berry). I was excited because they are one of my favorite birds; they are very social and acrobatic. After watching them for a while I could see they were picking the tree clean! They ate all the berries in two days and then moved on. Then immediately after, the tree began to grow leaves, filled out with foliage, and then bloomed with clusters of white flowers all over it. Very pretty. I do have to say though that I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone buy a Japanese Privet tree for their yard because it is classified as an invasive species which takes over and displaces native plants, and also causes soil erosion. I also read that the berries are not considered a nutritious food source for birds. However I did have sunflower seeds out, which I know are a great food for birds, and the cedar waxwings didn't touch them. They came for the berries. (Maybe they like junk food?) 

I took a lot of photos of the cedar waxwings; here are the best ones! Enjoy.

Cedar waxwings in the Japanese privet tree. 

I had never noticed the lovely painted details of the cedar waxwings' feathers. The tiny red bars on the wings and that bright yellow tail-tip. And that exquisite mask! What strikingly handsome birds.


Natural acrobats.



Here you can get an idea of the sheer number of birds we were seeing that day! They were very noisy.

Look at the branches now.... they've been busy.

Until next year, adieu, little fellas~~~! Happy flying.