First, let me apologize in advance for foisting upon my readers the world’s worst photographs of Bohemian Waxwings. I took the photographs in very early morning non-light at Plymouth State University in Plymouth N.H. on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the HMANA board meeting required that I spend the day at that, so my only chance to see this life bird was before the sun was high enough to allow a good photo. But, as this will likely be the only time I ever see or photograph bohemian waxwings, for my purposes a bad photo is still cause for celebration.
And what a way to see a life bird! This wasn’t a single bo’wing or even a small group of them. The flock has been counted at around 300 individuals. So my first view of this irruptive migrants was in a huge flock that’s virtually impossible to miss. As of Saturday, the birds were spending a lot of time in an area around the arts center, where there are a lot of bushes and small trees with red berries.
Seeing a flock like this, it’s hard to keep in mind that what is a birding bonanza is actually a bad thing for the birds themselves. In a normal year, bohemian waxwings stay up north, happily chomping away on local food. When they come south, it means there’s not enough food up north to sustain them. So they are forced to migrate, with all the inherent dangers associated with that. And then in the spring they will head north again, braving those dangers a second time. I have to wonder if breeding success the season after these irruptions is poorer than it is in years when the birds can overwinter in their home turf. I try not to let the excitement of seeing a new bird for the first time override my sense of what that means for the birds themselves. But that is really hard when you’re surrounded by 300 of them.
So, now I’m back at Roundtop safe and sound. I’ll post more on my trip to New Hampshire tomorrow and possibly on Thursday before getting back to the news at Roundtop again.