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Life Bird - a BOHEMIAN WAXWING!

Published February 09, 2015
Tags: Life List Happenings, Bohemian Waxwing, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark

When I heard that Alec Humann had found a Bohemian Waxwing up at Fort Niagara, I didn't hesitate - I RAN to get some gear together and got out the door in record time.  I've chased this bird several times before and I didn't want to risk missing this one!

It was a brutal day - windy, very cold, with sleet and ice on the way.  The roads were still good when I left and I made it to the fort in record time. It was tough trying to find a good viewing spot, especially since the snow plow guys asked another gentleman and myself to move our cars. As I was maneuvering my car into a spot I thought would be pass their inspection, Kevin Rybz texted that he had the bird. I looked around and saw his car near the place I had just left.  I quickly made my way over to him but couldn't get my eyes on the waxwing. Many Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and oddly, 5 female Purple Finches were all foraging in the crabapple trees near the entrance to the park.  Motivated by the freezing winds, I got my car back to the circle and started scanning the waxwings again.  Finally, there it was!  The rufous undertail was beautifully visible as was its grayer, larger, more rotund body. The black under its bill was more prominant and there was more rufous around its face. What a gorgeous bird - and, as Alec said, "elegant". It was, indeed, elegant.

I couldn't stop smiling for hours. After that first sighting, Kevin, Dennis G, and I had a few more observations of the bird as it went back and forth from the crabapple trees to the spruce trees.  I finally left with a skimpy, few photos due to the weather conditions - but still giddy that I finally got to see a Bohemian Waxwing.

This waxwing, by the way, is an uncommon, but regular visitor to Western New York. It  breeds in northern Alaska and Canada, occasionally visiting our region in the winter as it searches for fruit and berries.

Did you know a Bohemian Waxwing can actually die of intoxication if the fruit it finds has fermented?  True fact!

A couple of days later, I went up to see if the bird was still around, but found the place to be rather busy with more birders and photogs.  So, instead, I left the waxwings and decided to pursue some field birds instead. The Lapland Longspurs had been eluding me all winter so I was bent on checking that guy off my list!

A tip from Willie took me down a few roads and, after some painful scoping at my first stop, I finally got my eyes on some longspurs!  A couple of places had more Snow Buntings than I think I've ever seen at one time before. There were many Horned Larks as well and I was able to get a few shots of two out of the three species - the longspur eluding my camera this time!  As I drove east, I found many more small groups of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks. Raptors seemed to be drawn to their locations as well. I saw a Merlin, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks all out surveying the fields. Between the cold and snow, the poor little things have to worry about raptors!
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Bohemian Waxwing - my life bird and greatly sought after bird!
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Bohemian Waxwing
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Bohemian Waxwing
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Cedar Waxing - another beautiful bird
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Snow Bunting
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark