Backyard Birds - December 2022 Report
The year started with an influx of Bohemian Waxwings along the Front Range. Read on for these and other backyard sightings as reported to Hugh Kingery.
Our first Cedar Waxwing report came on the Denver Urban Christmas count on January 1 when Barb Masoner’s group, along the Highline Canal near Quincy, found one, with a large flock of Cedar Waxwings.
These waxwings show up sporadically, often in big numbers. Most years we don’t see any, and then a year like this comes when many descend upon us from the north. You can distinguish Bohemians from Cedars first by checking their under-tail coverts: rufous in Bohemian, yellow in Cedars. Bohemians have grayish bellies, Cedars pale yellow.
Jared del Rosso returned January 4; the waxwings continued with one Bohemian. He commented, “They’re also incredibly active wherever they stop. They work the ground (for water) to the canopy of cottonwoods (for sun and melting snow, it seems). So birders who hope to find the Bohemian would be well-served bringing either several other birders with them, the better to check all the waxwings, or packing all the patience and, better yet, dumb luck they can find.”
Jared continued, “I enjoyed watching the Cedar Waxwings drinking from melting snow, off cottonwood and pine branches. At one point, I saw one waxwing offer either food (amid the pines — insects?) or water (in the form of melting snow) to another.”
On January 20, Doug Ward emailed, “While parts of our neighborhood (Athmar Park, SW Denver County) have a bohemian vibe, some actual Bohemian Waxwings along with some Cedar buddies, gave us a fly-by this morning. There were about fifty birds total, roughly 25 each, in the flock flying up towards the park (Huston Lake Park, Denver) which has a variety of fruit-bearing trees, so it might be worth a check if you are out and about. First heard the Bohemians, so keep both your eyes and ears open.”
The next day Gregg Goodrich found them in two places. “We just saw 100-150 Bohemian Waxwings at Hudson Gardens. They flew in a big group SE after about 20 minutes of viewing. There is a nice water feature just west of the parking lot that they were drinking from. After our visit to Hudson Gardens, we found Bohemian Waxwings at the Littleton Cemetery. They were in a tree at the Shell gas station west of the cemetery. There were several other Bohemian Waxwings sightings today in Littleton by a number of people. What a great winter season for Bohemian Waxwings!
Also on Jan. 21, Jared, “while attending to my yard a large flock — estimated at 250, but based on Gregg’s previous post, likely more — of Bohemian Waxwings flew over me, northward. My best guess is that they ended up somewhere near the High Line Canal (deKoevend Park or up on Orchard). Birders have been reporting large flocks of Bohemians along the Big Dry Creek, which is about a mile from my home.”
Switching to other birds, Polly Reetz emailed, “ We haven’t had Bushtits in our yard for a long time (a year?) despite having a suet feeder up most of the time, but these little guys showed up today (December 28). We also had a flock of about 20 last week during the VERY cold weather, swarming both the suet and the seed feeder and then vanishing. A single Cedar Waxwing also made an appearance at our bird bath.
“We’ve had a Townsend’s Solitaire in the yard on three occasions; I don’t remember ever seeing them in our yard before. The cold weather really brought the birds in — we had a Blue Jay take a bath in our bird bath, as well as flickers, robins, House Finches, chickadees, juncos, and the occasional squirrel. The House Finches did something I’ve not seen before: they perched on vegetation and tomato frames next to the south wall of our garage, evidently soaking up the radiated warmth of the sun once it was shining. Later, once the sun had moved around to the west side of the garage, the House Finches took refuge on the windowsills and a Flicker just hung there, sleeping, evidently.”
Jared had some special birds January 4: a Merlin in Cherry Hills Village, a Say’s Phoebe at Southglenn (a handful seems to spend early winter here; the Urban Christmas count tallied 6!) At his feeder he watched a Cassin’s Finch and a White-throated Sparrow that has stayed in his yard for a while.
Another surprise on the Urban Christmas count: an Eastern Phoebe found by the Tuesday Birders at Fairmont Cemetery. They obtained several good photos.
Bill and Suzanne Wuerthele have hosted a White-winged Dove in their Park Hill yard for a couple of weeks, and counted it on the Christmas count. “It’s feeding on millet in the backyard. The bird has become quite comfortable spending lots of resting time in the yard. Once it spent over an hour just resting on the platform feeder.”