Slice of Life #9- A Lifer!

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hAs I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently become a birder.  I love watching the birds at my birdfeeders, learning how to identify the different species, and tracking them for Ebird (a citizen science effort).  One of the byproducts of this new hobby is that I have become much more aware of the birds that are around all the time.  I find myself scanning the trees and skies for birds when I am walking the dogs and sometimes when I am driving.

It amazes me how many gorgeous birds fill the trees around us all the time without most people even noticing.  We tend to think that the sparrows and crows are the only birds around but that is far from true!  There are red, yellow, blue, and rainbow-hued birds right here in New Jersey.  It’s not just the tropics that have those colorful birds!

And as a new birder I am also picking up on the language of the specialty, including the word “lifer”.  A lifer is when a bird is first seen and positively identified by a birder.  I’m only starting out but I have identified 28 individual species just in my own backyard thanks to some bird-friendly landscaping and a lot of bird feeders.  But today I added a very exciting lifer to the list!

Thanks to daylight savings time it was still light out when I came home between work and work this afternoon.  That, coupled with the 50 degree weather, led me to take the dogs on a hike.  I live minutes from a county park so off we went to walk around the lake.  As I soaked up the much-needed vitamin D I noticed a strange bird silhouette in the trees above me.  The sun was shining behind the birds so I could not clearly make out their color but I could see the outline of their bodies and I could hear them calling.  I tried to take a photo but I only had my phone with me and it came out very fuzzy.  But that call!  And the tuft of mohawk-like hair on the head…..could it be a cedar waxwing?

A few birding groups I follow on Facebook had recently mentioned a few sightings of these awesome birds in the area but I was sure it could not be them.  Could I be that lucky?  So while watching them dart around the in the tree limbs above my head I also pulled out the Merlin app on my phone and began to run through a checklist.

  • brownish hue? √
  • usually in flocks in open woods or the edge of a forest? √
  • often perches near the top of leafless trees? √
  • eats berries? √
  • distinct high-pitched call? √

Yes!  They had to be cedar waxwings!  I enjoyed listening to them for a few more minutes while the dogs sat quietly beside me.  Well, quietly until they got bored.  Bailey decided to loudly eat snow and then crash along the boardwalk at that point so the flock lifted into the air and headed towards the island in the center of the lake. I could still hear them chirping as we continued our walk and I enjoyed looking for more of them.  I can’t wait to go back tomorrow with my camera to try and get a worthwhile picture!

Keep your eyes and your ears open, because sometimes the most beautiful things are right in front of you if you’ll only take the time to notice them.  It’s a beautiful world, so slow down and really look at it sometimes!  Especially on these warm days that usher in spring and all that comes with it!

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My very blurry iPhone photo of one of the Cedar Waxwings today

A much better photo from wikimedia.