Posted by: atowhee | October 3, 2019


Foraging species can have incredible time and space memories.  Without a paper calendar or smart phone, without paper maps of GPS satellites, birds and mammals, bees and butterflies know when and where they found food last year.

Annually a waxwing flock comes to clear out the ripened berries from our neighbor’s medium-sized rowan tree.  Today was that day.  The waxwing flock descended out of the sky, soon their motion and commotion brought in other berry-lovers, to wit, nearby robins.  Knowing the waxwings proclivities for rowan fruit (in Scotland where the tree is native I have seen one full of Bohemian Waxwings) I found a small volunteer rowan sapling and have transplanted it into a proper spot in our garden.

The streaky-chested waxwings are this year’s young.  The adults have streakless fronts and more crisply marked face masks.  All are equally adept at berry plucking, the fruit then swallowed whole.
Behold the waxwing, a fruitful endeavor among robins:

Birds attract…and they often attract other birds with similar gourmand leanings.  Local Song Sparrows may suddenly find themselves followed around by wintering Fox or Golden-crowned Sparrows.  Spotted Towhee may also attract smaller sparrows and juncos.  Like any wise travelers, wintering birds know to ask the locals where to eat.

The same goes for insectivores.  It is not unusual to find wintering warblers or migrants, kinglets from afar, even migratory flickers or sapsuckers following around the locals:  Downys, Bushtits, the locally resident chickadee species.  Bushtits seem to often be the heart of a winter gleaning flock.  They ignore the large birds but their constant soft messaging is heard by the others and heeded.  The Bushtits don’t cover large territories but they know the local area as well as any bird can.  Their presence and movements means good gleaning for those not familiar with the surroundings.  Plus it means more eyes on alert for an accipiter or Merlin.

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