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Bohemian Waxwing and Southtowns Birding

Published January 22, 2018
Tags: General Observations, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwing, Red-tailed Hawk, Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl

Doing some birding around the southtowns this past week, I came upon a few nice finds...

First, nothing rare, but a real life example of how difficult winter can be for wildlife.  I know Red-tailed Hawks prefer a fresh kill of rabbits, squirrels, etc...  But along my travels, I watched how an adult Red-tail was grabbing a meal from a deer carcass, most likely the victim of roadkill.  Every time a car would pass, the hawk would fly to a nearby utility pole.  I watched it do this several times, grabbing a bite or two in-between.

A few days later, I came upon a Snowy Owl out in a farm field.  That was pretty cool as it turned out to be a Wyoming County first for me.

The best (or second best) sighting of all this past week, though, was on Sunday when I started out to do the Audubon Climate Watch count for Eastern Bluebirds.  I was heading to my first point when I spotted a large flock of waxwings - 70 in all.  The flock was large enough to stir a little excitement in me - hopes rising that maybe a Bohemian Waxwing would be in that flock.  I quickly got out my scope and began combing through the flock.  Sure enough, I found one Bohemian in the mix!

Unfortunately, the flock didn't stay for more than twenty minutes after I first found it.  There were a couple of small flocks that were hanging around the awesome nursery, Boston Hills Nursery on the corner, taking advantage of some good food sources on the young fruit bearing trees, but no Bohemian was found among them.  I was especially hoping a couple of best birding buddies would get the chance to add this guy to their Erie County checklists but... well, there will be another chance, I'm sure.  Maybe even this winter yet...

If you're not familiar with a Bohemian Waxwing, check out the photos below.  This waxwing is larger than a Cedar Waxwing; it has a gray belly, and a beautiful cinnamon flush to the face and deep cinnamon undertail.  It's a gorgeous bird and I urge you to check out any flock of waxwings during the winter.  This waxwing only visits Western New York during the winter and usually hooks up with a flock of cedars.  Their nomadic life style of searching for berries and fruit to eat, earned them the name of "bohemian".

Interesting fact:  did you know that waxwings can get become intoxicated from eating fermented berries?  It's a true fact!  They can actually die from this, so it can be quite serious!

Later that same night, I drove out to a spot I've been watching that looked perfect for Short-eared Owls.  Just as I was beginning to think it was another bust, one showed up on a fence post!  Very cool!  It was well worth the wait to finally see one at this spot.  I think it's kind of neat when you can envision some bird in just the right habitat - and then find you were right about it.  This sighting was very rewarding - maybe topping the Bohemian Waxwing...
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Red-tailed Hawk eating a deer carcass
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Flying off to a utility pole when a car came by
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Snowy Owl
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Snowy Owl
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Bohemian Waxwing (top) and Cedar Waxwings (bottom)
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Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings
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Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings
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Short-eared Owl shot in very low light