Thursday, February 26, 2015

Island Beach SP 2/26--Cedar Waxwing OR Chasing the Elusive Bowax

When we were in Minnesota last month, we saw puh-lenty of Bohemian Waxwings. So, when one showed up at Sandy Hook this month, I was interested, but not interested enough to brave the cold weather to chase it. I had the species for the year, I even have it on my Jersey life list, since years ago Shari picked one out at Sandy Hook in more or less the same spot that this year bird is being seen.

But, when three showed up yesterday in someone's backyard in Lavellette, which is in Ocean County, then I wanted the bird for my county list. The birds flew off from her backyard and a few people suspected that Island Beach would be a likely place to look for them. I was planning on doing that this morning but when I awoke, it was snowing. By the time it stopped snowing I had lost the momentum to go out chasing.

Greg, however, was in the park I think, just as the last flake fell and around 2:45 he called me. "Bohemian Waxwing, lot A3." It was like Thick-billed Murre deja vu all over again. Shari & I bolted for the car and made the 45 minute drive to Island Beach SP, hitting every red light, school zone, and detour possible. Once in Island Beach we found ourselves behind a student driver. Shari passed her and we found Greg at the parking lot. We also found lots of robins. Of course, we found no Bowax.

For the next hour and a half we drove up and down the road looking for flocks of robins with which waxwings often mix. Down around lot A11 we found more robins and finally, for me, two Cedar Waxwings.  It is a pretty strange birding year when I get Bohemian before Cedar, but at least I added that bird for the year. As it happens, out of all the birds on my life list, Cedar Waxwing is my favorite. I just love their mask, their crest, the little red tips on their wings, the yellow edge on their tails. They look, to me, like cartoon space cadets I saw on TV as a kid or in a dream.

So, okay, the excursion wasn't a complete waste, but after stomping around in the cold for more than hour, it looked to me like the bird, which could be anywhere, was. We started to drive north out of the park when Greg stopped and pointed out another mixed flock. In this flock it seemed Cedar Waxwings predominated--there were around 20 of them. Greg said that the Bohemian he saw was with quite few Cedars so we spent about a half hour looking carefully at each waxwing as they picked some kind of blue berry off an otherwise bare deciduous tree. So the anywhere the Bohemian could have been wasn't the where we were. (This is starting to sound like Gertrude Stein.)

I think I'll try again tomorrow. It will be cold but I'll be in the car, driving back & forth, looking everywhere.

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