I could hear them. That high-pitched whistle.
Then I could see them at the top of the tree near where I had parked my car.
I’m a bird enthusiast and the Cedar Waxwings are one of my favorites. My first “research” paper was on the Cedar Waxwings – a report for second grade, complete with a sticker of the bird. I wrote the report before I’d actually seen the bird in person. I just had the bird sticker along with the bird book. And what an amazing looking bird, with a black mask and a tail that looks like the tip has been dipped in bright yellow paint.
The Cedar Waxwings migrate through Gainesville most winters when berries on some palms and trees provide a feast.
Cedar Waxwings travel in large flocks. I’ve watched them circle around and then land on a tree, eat the berries, and then leave as a group.
That’s what the birds were doing in the parking lot. A group would fly to one tree, settle for a minute or two, and then fly to the next tree. Sometimes, a group would fly by a tree and another group of Waxwings would join them.
As I watched, one group joined another and another. Hundreds of the birds formed a small cloud above the parking lot. They swooped off and flew almost out of sight. As they flew, their group flying pattern changed from a cloud to several different almost geometric shapes. (Where was my Canon camera when I needed that longer lens?)
I’d learned that term from reading about the dramatic video of a Starling murmuration shot by Sophie Windsor Clive while canoeing in Ireland. [A murmuration is a great cloud of birds that fly in orchestrated formations.]
After their group ballet, the Cedar Waxwings flew back to the parking lot. The large flock separated into small groups, and the birds returned to eating the berries on the trees.
As a faculty member who spends quite a bit of time and thought on planning group learning activities for 200 undergraduates, coordinated with six lab instructors, I marveled at the flock’s ability to work and change in unison.
No handouts or PowerPoint slides were evident.