Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30: Waxwing Love

We hit the Monhegan trails early this morning, drawn by anticipation of what might await us. This is my favorite time of day out here, as the sun rises over the Meadow to illuminate the corridor of blooming lilacs along the dirt road into the heart of the village. To the left is the harbor and Manana; to the right, past the old yellow house and above the Meadow, the lighthouse. Blackbirds flash their red epaulettes as they chatter and dive in the reeds of the marsh, and with any luck, small songbirds crawl through the greenery of lilacs and apple trees. Drenched in early light enriched by the vivid colors of flowers and the alluring warbles of birds, the morning lay before us full of promise.

Our first bird sighting, besides a mixed flock of grackles, starlings, and mallards eating bird seed in Tom Martin's yard, was just past the market, above a tangle of lobster traps, pallets, and colorful ropes. A pair of cedar waxwings, obviously a couple, sat perched side by side on a lilac branch. As we watched them, they passed a red berry from bill to bill several times. Then one flew down to grab a new berry, and they shared that one back and forth for a while. Waxwings are one of my favorite birds, in part because they're so beautiful--sleek brown with yellow bellies, a black mask, a crest, and red on the tips of their wing feathers like sealing wax (hence the name). But also because they're gentle, gregarious birds. You never see just one. Out here, even as some of them are obviously establishing pair bonds with these sweet, berry-passing rituals, flocks of a dozen to a hundred waxwings will sweep overhead with a rush of soft sounds and then land in a spruce tree all together like one big happy family. It's hard not to love them.

So no matter what the day ahead brings in the way of bird life, the joy we found at its start, with the two courting waxwings, will resonate throughout.

A berry shared, two,
gently passed from bill to bill
with such tenderness.

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