A Hungry Carnival of Birds

Cedar waxwings keen perched on nearly bare twigs in a Caddo maple out front. Drawing birds through a scope can be a challenge, but in early spring the tiny leaves and frilly maple flowers reveal and frame them in pale green. And  bellyfuls of berries keep them stupefied. Easy to draw like that.
Cedar waxwings keen in the nearly bare Caddo maple out front. Sketching birds through a scope can be a challenge; in early spring, thankfully, the tiny leaves and frilly maple flowers reveal and frame them. In a week you won’t be able to see these guys.

Stuffed birds aren’t always in museums. Sometimes they’re perched in trees, crammed to the tops of their crops. They get sleepy, their heads tilt and eyes glaze over; they are simply stupefied by gluttony. Drawing songbirds through the scope is kind of a rare thing as a rule but I got an opportunity this week when a big load of holly berries ripened by the porch. The fruit’s been luscious red for ages, but it’s only been in the past week that every bird in the neighborhood’s been lining up for seconds and thirds. With this cold spring, maybe the fruit got a little frost bitten. Maybe that improves the flavor.

Burford berries. Even as the last berries are picked, there are flowers and next year's fruit, all on the same branch.
Burford berries, black spotted from age and frost, but delicious to a bird, I guess. Even as the last berries are picked, there are fading flowers and next year’s fruit, all on the same branch.

By the middle of the week, a carousel of flying waxwings was rotating from the just-barely leafing out Caddo maple to the Burford holly and back, each bird grabbing three or four gold rings and sitting still for five minutes of quiet digestion. That’s when I pulled a chair up to the edge of the porch, tilted the scope up, and put a sketchbook in the crook of my arm.

Drawing-through-the-scope tip: keep both eyes open.

All the birds are cold and hungry- we’re having a late freeze- relatively bitter weather for our part of the country. Thankfully, the holly had a bumper crop this year, and there’s enough fruit for tomorrow, unless a really big flock turns up in the next hour or two. With luck, there could even be a bird carousel tomorrow.

7 thoughts on “A Hungry Carnival of Birds

  1. Corienne says:

    Ooooo. I love this! They’re so beautiful and so are the sketches. I love what you do.
    Just wondering….do these berries make the birds drunk as pyracantha berries?

  2. Linda DeBerry says:

    I saw on Wildcare’s Facebook page that sometimes the fruit gets a little OVER ripe, and the birds get a bit … well … drunk. Sometimes they act weird and get picked up by well-meaning individuals who take them to Wildcare or other wildlife rehabilitators where they are allowed to quietly sober up and dry out before they are released. 😉

  3. zeladoniac says:

    Not sure if the waxwings are drunken, but they sure do look jolly. Wildcare Foundation is an awesome wildlife rehab center (in Noble, OK), but I never knew they were THAT kind of rehab;-)

  4. will says:

    It is always a joy to visit your blog. Your knowledge of birds and your skill in giving them life on the paper are just awesome! Your wonderful drawings are an invitation to look at birds better and enjoy watching them.

  5. Ken Januski says:

    Your bird sketches from life like this are always so impressive! And enjoyable. It’s finally getting warm enough here for me to start carting my scope along with me when I go birding and sketching. Haven’t yet broken out the scope, but any day.

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