Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flash Mobs

I wasn’t sure I’d see them this far south. Part of it is that I know when to expect them in Boston—early summer and late fall—and knew where to look as well. But they appear so quickly, so fleetingly, and without warning, that if you’re not in the right place at the right time you can miss them completely.

And then, over Presidents’ Day weekend in Delaware, there they were--full of energy and noise, crowding the branches of the still-bare trees and devouring whatever berries and other delicacies were on offer.

I’m talking, of course, about cedar waxwings, those dashing, bandit-masked birds whose presence is made even more precious by its relative infrequency.

I saw them here in DC soon after I’d spotted them in Delaware; they flitted through the branches of nearby trees every morning for about a week, trilling their high, piercing, half-pure and half-metallic “srreeee” calls. Each morning, as I headed to work, the sight and sound of them lifted my heart.

I don’t know what it is about them that I find so enchanting and delightful. Part of it is their multitude; cedar waxwings always fly in flocks, so there’s the pleasure of seeing not just one or two but twenty, forty, eighty, of them.

Part of it is that they’re just so very pretty, with their crests, their black bandit masks, their soft caramel-beige feathers that look as smooth as if they were made of brushed silk, the bright lines of red on their wings and the dab of gold at the tips of their tails. Part of it is their call, that high, eerie, thrilling sound.

And part of it is their joyful gluttony as they gobble down berries with a cheerful single-mindedness.

Come to think of it, I guess I do know why I find them so enchanting. But mere description is never enough to truly justify, or elicit in you the reader, the feeling of exuberance they inspire in me.

I’ll just hope you have the opportunity to see them for yourselves, and that this passion of mine, unlike that for pigeons, is one that is more universally shared.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

I share it, as you know. What stunning shots! And don't you think they always look a little scandalized, as if to say, "You're looking at me?"

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

They do! Not as scandalized as lemurs, though. (Though I realize that's a high bar.)

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