Red Deer River Naturalists

The Red Deer river Naturalists are a group dedicated to learning about and preserving natural history. They have regular programs with speakers and many field trips.


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Sunday, January 29, 2017


    Bohemian waxwings are a very common winter bird in this area. (Central Alberta). They appear about the end of November to mid December. They travel in rather large flocks so are very noticeable. The rest of the year they spend in the boreal forest.

    Waxwings are very attractive with the bright red and yellow markings. You can get very close to them when they are feeding on mountain ash berries. When they are resting in the daytime they find a huge tree where as many of them as possible jockey for spaces. They groom and enjoy the sun.

    Last week I wrote about how the waxwings are pursued by merlins. This week I observed the action again. There were many waxwings in the tree in my front yard as they were feeding in my neighbor's mountain ash. I got a few photos and as I was looking for another photo the flock exploded and left. As waxwings do they formed a dense ball and rose . Then I noticed a different bird. You almost think it's a waxwing that didn't here go. But it was the merlin. Again I didn't see him make a kill but I haven't had waxwings all week.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


     Bohemian waxwings give us some fantastic shows in the winter. They are beautiful birds with some bright red and yellow highlights.

     Bohemian waxwings tend to hang out in rather large flocks. They start out smaller in early winter and gradually grow to be huge flocks which are very noticeable. It's amazing to see a large flock of birds take off all at the same instant. What's to communication they have that tells them to begin flight as if they are one bird?

     Flocks become larger as they feast on Mountain ash berries. The snow under roosting trees gets covered with the remains of the red mountain ash berries. And then they have the nerve to poop on cars.

     For me the best part of bohemian waxwings is when they are pursued by a predator. The predator in this area is the merlin. The merlin's method of predation is to get under a flock. The flock rises to get away from the merlin. Sooner or later a weak bird will drop for the flock. The merlin is on the bird like lightening.

     Today a large flock was in my district. And yes the merlin was here too. I saw the merlin chase the flock but I didn't see him make a kill.

     Are you watching the beautiful bohemian waxwings?