Spotted: female Cedar Waxwing

Took a walk through Col. Samuel Smith park today and saw many flocks of starlings flying overhead in synchronized fashion, alighting on barren tree branches, chittering and squaking, etc. I noticed a fight between a starling and a robin — the robin being a solitary intruder on the treeful of starlings, I suppose. Then I noticed more robins flying heavily between the small trees and shrubs; and then, amongst the robins, I saw something new. (I knew they were around before this, because I’d seen them flying in small flocks overhead, but with the foggy overcast weather and the distance, identification would have been an impossible pursuit.) They were lovely little things (I guess I say that about all my new sightings, but anyway): vaguely thrush-like in shape but definitely smaller and more able-bodied than the robins, with a slight crest, light grey body, white or pale buff belly, pointed black mask (around the eyes and under the shin), and, to my surprise and delight, a yellow-tipped tail. I really only saw one of them close up; they were eating large red berries from a small twiggy tree and watching me apprehensively — most took early refuge in a larger tree nearby that had heavier foliage and was much less accessible to me. The one I saw up close was not nearly as colourful as that illustrating Cornell’s ID page, but it looked very much like the one featured on Wikipedia and this blog post (although I did not notice the brownish head). So: a female.

I also saw a new duck, but from a bit of a distance. It was a small (juvenile or just small?) shallow diver (by which I mean it dissapeared under water, but returned quickly and to the same spot — not like the Long-tailed duck, for instance), black, and with a white (I thought) beak. It seemed a little skittish. It was all alone. Black scoter? I don’t know of other all-black ducks but I’m not sure about that beak…

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