The Poets’ Birds: Waxwings

(Click to enlarge)
Four Tao philosophers as cedar waxwings
chat on a February berry bush
in sun, and I am one.
Such merriment and such sobriety–
the small wild fruit on the tall stalk–
was this not always my true style?
(Click to enlarge)
Above an elegance of snow, beneath
a silk-blue sky a brotherhood of four
birds. Can you mistake us?
(Click to enlarge)
To sun, to feast, and to converse —
and all together — for this I have abandoned
all my other lives.
~ poem “Waxwings” by Robert Francis

American poet Robert Francis lived for most of his adult life in Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1940, he purchased a half-acre of wooded land on Market Hill Road and built a small, one-person house in the woods there. He named it “Fort Juniper“ in honor of the common pasture juniper (Juniperus communis); it served as his home until his death. 

Photographer Bruce Myren, whose images of the house are simple and evocative, has recorded early encounters with the poet in the Amherst woods, and spoken of their significance for his later work:

While wandering in the woods as a teenager, I often encountered an older man in a cap, someone I assumed to be a poet but never spoke to. Many years later, I learned that the man who tipped his hat to me was Francis.
It was in this area of Amherst where I first forged my sense of intimacy with the land, and it was these same environs that Francis would walk for inspiration. Via Francis’s poems and prose, I am seeing my former hometown with new eyes and capturing the intersection of his understanding of this place with my own experience.

That Myren should have assumed the unknown man to be a poet is perhaps understandable, given that Amherst also was home to Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and a host of other poets, editors, and literary academics. While it’s true that Dickinson and Frost have attracted far more notice than Francis, he was productive, and well respected in his lifetime. Amherst’s Jones Library, which hosted both his 85th birthday celebration and a memorial after his death, notes that:

His first book, Stand With Me Here, was published in 1936. The last book to be published during his lifetime was Traveling in Amherst: A Poet’s Journal (1986). Other writings include The Sound I Listened For (1950), Orb Weavers (1960), Like Ghosts of Eagles (1974), and Butterhill (1984). His Collected Poems was published in 1971.
Francis was also noted for his essays, many of which appeared in Forum, Christian Science Monitor, Virginia Quarterly Review, Atlantic Monthly, and Massachusetts Review.

From 1976 to 1994, Henry Lyman hosted Poems to a Listener on public radio station WFCR in Amherst, allowing poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, William Stafford, and Seamus Heaney to reflect on their lives and work.

When Robert Francis invited Lyman and his listeners into his wooded, one-story home in Amherst, reading selections from his Collected Poems as well as poems that would be published posthumously in Late Fire, Late Snow, it was a delightful occasion. You can listen to some of the readings here: merriment and sobriety combined, in Francis’s inimitable style.

Comments always are welcome. The photos of the waxwings — who only were passing through on their way to Elsewhere —  are mine.

97 thoughts on “The Poets’ Birds: Waxwings

    1. Ah, but you see — that’s Robert Francis’s name at the bottom of the poem. The descriptions are his, not mine.

      I did think it a wonderful coincidence that I found his poem not long after the waxwings came through our area, and it was equally delightful to find I had photos with four birds — to match his imagined philosopher birds. The photo of the bird with the berry in its beak was pure lagniappe — a little something extra, as they say in Louisiana.

      1. “Four Tao philosophers as cedar waxwings
        chat on a February berry bush
        in sun, and I am one.

        Such merriment and such sobriety–
        the small wild fruit on the tall stalk–
        was this not always my true style?”

        But, but…Did Francis pen that line? I am confused.

        1. Yes, indeed. The whole poem belongs to Francis — that’s why I appended his name, and then went on to say a bit about his life. I suppose I should have found a way to make that more clear. Let me amend things, slightly.

          …There. I think that’s better, don’t you? I would love to have written this one, but I need to make sure people know I didn’t! Thanks for pointing out the lack of clarity, Gerard.

  1. Oh! I love this! When I worked at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens- in February, Cedar Waxwings migrate through the area- we had a double row of ‘Possum Haw’ – right at the entrance- they are unremarkable the rest of the year, but for one brief day- the Cedar Waxwings visit and the sound of it is unlike any other! masses of them strip the Possum Haw berries- I consider myself blessed to have witnessed it twice! great post!

    1. We’re a little short on possumhaw in my neighborhood, but these birds seemed perfectly happy with the palm trees. They stayed for two days, stripping every fruit before they left.

      When you mentioned the sound of it, I laughed. I heard them for two days before they arrived at my trees, and for a while I couldn’t quite identify what I was hearing. They hadn’t been here for a couple of years — maybe three — so I didn’t immediately think, “Waxwings!” it was only when I saw the flocks swooping in that I realized it was my turn to be blessed. I couldn’t stop watching.

      I’m so glad I got some photos. If the birds themselves don’t show up next year, I always can look at the pictures.

      1. since I only worked at the gardens part time- it was sort of unbelievable that I actually was there on those days…great report! I love it that they ate everything! ha! they were making a long trip!

        1. Actually, they didn’t eat quite everything. Some of the green fruits, like those in the last photo, were left. Eventually, they disappeared, too. Surprised as I’ve been to find grackles and squirrels nesting in the palms, they may have been the ones who cleaned up after the waxwings, and finished off the berries.

    1. Thanks, Terry. I’m glad you like the photos. I’m pretty sure you don’t have palm trees there, and it seems our possumhaw (Ilex decidua) doesn’t grow in Montana. Do you have another variety of possumhaw? or are there other plants that they prefer?

      1. Here they will eat saskatoon berries, ash berries, and red hawthorn berries and I’m sure many others that I haven’t observed. The hillside above the road just up from my house is covered with various berries in the fall and even winter and the Waxwings hang out there. I’ve often said that I could survive for months myself on just the berries that grow there.

        1. Now I remember you mentioning the saskatoon berries. I see they eat service berries, too. It must be wonderful to have these beautiful birds around for more than a day or two. We have our avian pleasures, of course, but these are among my favorites of the migrants.

          Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Cornell site: “The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that specializes in eating fruit. It can survive on fruit alone for several months. Brown-headed Cowbirds that are raised in Cedar Waxwing nests typically don’t survive, in part because the cowbird chicks can’t develop on such a high-fruit diet.”

          1. That’s an interesting bit from Cornell. The only good photos that I have of the Waxwings were taken when they were eating the berries of the Hawthorn. I can’t blame them: I enjoy those berries too, and they are some of the last to ripen in the fall.

  2. The cedar waxwings’ feathers are so smooth they look airbrushed. We have them here, but I’ve never seen them. Supposedly they hang out in the cemetery. There are junipers there, and I assume they eat juniper berries. They are lovely birds. I don’t know their philosophy, or whether they have Taoist leanings, however.

    1. They do eat juniper berries: and, from what Cornell says, just about every other berry there is. Your mention of that air-brushed appearance is apt. They’re so sleek and smooth, and if they come through in winter, or at least before the trees have begun to leaf out, they’re absolutely unmistakable when they perch in the treetops.

      I loved the image Francis created, not only with the reference to Taoist philosophers, but also with a form of verse that so clearly recalls haiku and such. That’s one reason I separated the verses: to highlight the fact that they fit together beautifully, but also could stand on their own.

  3. I took note that you did not compose the poem because I was expecting it to be yours. It sounds like you. Also, it seems so timely that you had the photos of four waxwings to go with the poem. Nice.

    1. I discovered Francis through another blogger, just a month or two ago. I hadn’t heard of him, and when I read more, I found a good bit that was appealing.

      I’ve never thought of it, but it makes some sense that we would gravitate toward writers whose work shares similarities with our own. In any event, when you say that this poem “sounds like me,” I’m delighted. It’s an indication that I have developed, to one degree or another, a recognizable “voice.” I’ve always contended (despite the promises of writing workshop promoters and writing advice columnists) that the mysterious “voice” can’t be adopted. It has to emerge, and the only way a true voice can emerge is for the writer to write.

      It seems that’s the path Francis took. He certainly was engaged in the life around him, but he put writing first, and we’ve all profited from it.

  4. Beautiful photos, Linda, to accompany Robert Francis’ words. He is a new poet to me. I listened to him reading Pumpkin Man. His words took me immediately to an interview I heard the other day about The Vegetarian, winner of the Man Booker International Prize http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36303604 It is not the sort of book which would appeal to me but the idea of a person wanting to become a plant caught my attention. Francis captures the plant/person transformation as well but in a way which is much easier for me to digest. And, of course, I had to check, and I am pleased to discover that I was right to assume Francis was a vegetarian. :)

    1. It’s a shame that Francis decided to forego the pleasures of barbeque, but I’ll not hold that against him. I hadn’t read about his choice of vegetarianism, but it helps to make even more sense of one of his own favorite gifts to the Amherst library: not another manuscript, or another reading, but an herb garden near the building.

      I’ve read some reviews of “The Vegetarian,” and it isn’t a book I’d be moved to pick up. Not having read the book, I only know what I’ve read in reviews, but they seem fairly well united in their synopses. To be entirely frank, I’m a little tired of plot lines that propose (1) being human is undesirable, and (2) better we should become something else: plant, machine, android, coyote. That’s another discussion for another day, but I will say that, like Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, Francis has the gift of putting his humanity in service to world, revealing connections rather than destroying them.

      As for the pumpkin man, his name was Charlie Nutting, and he lived in the neighborhood. In his autobiography, Francis says he also saw him, from time to time, as the Buddha, but it was the pumpkin man who showed up in the poem. You can read a couple of pages about Charlie here.

      [Add: I just backed up and read page eight of the selection I linked. The last sentence? “In a word, I had finally become, whatever my remaining shortcomings, human.”]

      1. Thank you for that reference. Captivating stories. “I will say that, like Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, Francis has the gift of putting his humanity in service to world, revealing connections rather than destroying them.” I so agree with your comment. I can’t read despair and destruction anymore.

    1. That is a good article. One detail made me smile: his self-description in his autobiography as a “sunbather.” There are hints of that in the “Waxwings” poem: not the exhibitionistic sunbathing of spring break on the beach, but the indolent lazing of the perfectly comfortable.

      His comments about what it was like to try and write poetry with Robert Frost lurking about were interesting, too. They reminded me of what Flannery O’Connor said about William Faulkner: “The presence alone of Faulkner in our midst makes a great difference in what the writer can and cannot permit himself to do. Nobody wants his mule and wagon stalled on the same track the Dixie Limited is roaring down.”

      I laugh every time I read that.

    1. Oh, Jean. Now you’ve done it. Put “bird” and “word” near one another in a sentence, and anyone who was in high school in the mid-sixties has a good chance of remembering this. Perhaps I’ll not be so quick to judge some of today’s music, now that this has come to mind. Of course, we had the Purple People Eater, too, so there’s that.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem and the photos. I was delighted to be able to record the birds’ visit, and finding Francis’s poem made it even more special.

  5. Wow! Those photographs of the birds are stunning, in search of a better word. Great photography skills.

    Never heard much about poet Robert Francis. Emily Dickinson is near to my heart. Her work is outstanding.

    Thank you for your continuous English education. With you, I’m sure I will learn English….some day! Sigh!

    1. A whole chain of circumstances led to my getting the photos, Omar. Most important, perhaps, was the decision of the property owners not to spend money to have tree care specialists trim off the large branches of flowers this year. They often do, just because they make a bit of a “mess” when they fall. But left on the tree, they become lovely fruits, attracting birds like the waxwings.

      I’ve planned a very short series on poets and birds, and Emily Dickinson is included. You’re right that Francis is not so well known, but he has a great deal to offer.

      You do know that you read and write English with greater proficiency than many of our high school graduates. (I was going to write “most,” but I prefer to be more optimistic than that.) You haven’t a thing to be ashamed of. We all keep learning, but you clearly have mastered the basics.

      1. Cynical me says that “most” is probably accurate, alas. In recent years I’ve avoided the phrase “high school graduates,” preferring “people who have been given a high school diploma.”

        1. Ah, yes. The diploma as participation trophy: except, of course, that “participation trophy” implies participation. Even that low bar isn’t always met.

          On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if school systems aren’t intentionally setting out to lead students to failure. The most recently publicized example in Houston’s ISD is the French teacher who doesn’t speak French. Even I can manage a “C’est stupide” without resorting to Google.

          1. That’s an egregious example, all right, especially when the actual French teacher is now drawing his salary as a hall monitor rather than a French teacher.

            And then there are the tens of millions of dollars that some school districts have spent on elaborate stadiums and sports complexes instead of on academics.

  6. I love the photos. Cedar Waxwings are not the easiest birds to photograph. Most years I see them for a month or more around here. This year I didn’t see as many as normal. I did see a flock of over 50 just as the mulberries were ripening. One thing that identifies cedar waxwings for me is the sound they make as they fly… it’s more of a sustained whistle than any thing else. Once heard and associated with the waxwings, you’ll never mistake it.

    It’s those mulberries that attract most of the migrants to stop a day or two on their way north.

    1. Waxwings at least pause to eat, Gary. I was trying to capture some swallows in flight, and let’s just say that was unsuccessful. But these beauties? Once they find a berry-filled branch, they aren’t going to leave until the berries are gone. It made photo-taking much easier. One thing I learned is that, if the colored patch at the end of the tail is orange instead of yellow, the bird’s been eating a non-native honeysuckle.

      Their call is unique, isn’t it? Cornell calls it a “hissy whistle,” which amuses me no end. I keep thinking of the phrase, “hissy fit.”

      I saw the first evidence of mulberries this week. What they do to a teak deck isn’t pretty, but at least it’s a reminder than the birds are eating well.

      1. My problem is every time they decide to alight it’s in the top of the trees. When they are 30′ to 40′ above you even a 300mm lens is just too short.

  7. “While wandering in the woods as a teenager, I often encountered an older man in a cap, someone I assumed to be a poet but never spoke to.” That’s extraordinary, don’t you think? How often does one person out in nature assume that another is a poet?

    1. That stopped me, too, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I suspect Amherst was a literary town in the way that Texas has football towns. Given Dickinson and Frost, a flock of other local poets (both well-known and not) and the visiting lecturers and poets-in-residence at Amherst College, poet-sightings probably were common. Anyone out wandering lonely as a cloud might be suspected of poetic tendencies.

      I’m almost ready to read Francis’s autobiography, just to see if he sheds any more light on the issue.

  8. What pretty little birds — and yes, they do look like they’re busy philosophizing! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one here — probably not native to Illinois.

    I find it interesting that Myren as a youngster would see Francis in the woods and, without even exchanging a word with him, would deem him a poet. What does a poet look like anyway? I read several poets online, and I find them all very unique.

    Sometimes, a one-room house in the woods sounds practically perfect, doesn’t it?!

    1. I looked them up on the Audubon site, and it says that they’re common in the northern half of your state year-round, and common in the southern half during the winter. It might pay to listen to their calls here, as people often hear them before they see them. The first call on the list is the one that drew my attention this year.

      Isn’t that interesting, about Myren thinking Francis was a poet, without even talking with him? I can see that conversation might lead to that conclusion, but simply meeting the man on a path? It’s a little mysterious. On the other hand, as I mentioned up above, to Steve, he lived in an environment where writers and poets were all around, so it might have been a reasonable assumption.

      I’ll say this: Francis had one terrific house. i could be perfectly happy there — as long as I had an internet connection. If I couldn’t have internet, I’d still be willing to give it a try.

  9. So this is why you asked. You should have told me…I would have gone by and got an image or two for you.
    Very nice Cedar Waxwing images, Linda.

    WFCR used to have quite a number of fine programs such as “Poems to a listener”, “Reading Aloud” and many others. The management made a decision to drop them in favor of mostly classical music. There was a bit of an uproar as, since it is listener supported, the listeners heard about it after the fact with no input and were told we’d get used to it and like it.

    Although there are no longer folks of Francis’, Dickinson’s or Frost’s stature here, the valley is still a great place for artists of all stripes.

    1. Actually, when I first asked about Francis, it was casual curiosity. I’d just been introduced to him through another blogger, who’d posted one of his poems, and I thought it was interesting that he lived in your town. At that point, I hadn’t yet found the Waxwing poem, and certainly wasn’t planning a post about him. I was heading down another road altogether when I found the poem, remembered my photos, and changed direction — not unlike a certain photographer I know who set off to find a trillium and ended with a sunrise.

      These photos were among the very first I took with my new telephoto lens. Their primary virtue is that they eased my mind a bit about the wisdom of laying out the money for the thing. Well, and they are nice photos: especially the one showing the bird with the berry in his beak. That one makes me smile.

      As for WFCR — there’s no question that unexpected or unasked-for change can roil the waters. Heaven knows we’ve seen it with WordPress. I’ve always figured there are three responses: roll with the changes, find a workaround, or leave. I left Weather Underground, but so far I’ve devised workarounds for what I didn’t like about WordPress changes. And the sad state of Houston radio has an easy answer: the off switch.

      1. Ah, so this is one of those posts that causes others to sit idle. :)

        Yes, it is apparent that not only was the lens worth the expense but that you are a pretty quick study in its use. The one you mention would make any seasoned bird photographer proud.

        Some folks don’t know to leave well enough alone. Always tinkering and thinking they can make an already good thing better. Most often that tack fails. Here’s a grin…whenever I hear “Weather Underground” it reminds me of these folks. Actually, I was very surprised that anyone would use that name for any endeavor, given its history.

        1. When Jeff Masters founded WU in 1995, the name was chosen as a tongue-in-cheek reference to exactly that group. Jeff went to school at the University of Michigan — the same place where the other Weather Underground was founded.

          My first blog was on that site, almost by accident. They had a blog page as well as seven day forecasts. When it was new, and smaller, it was a pretty tightly knit community. Over time, the site changed, and its purchase by The Weather Channel brought even more changes.

          There’s a bit of irony in the fact that their forecasts changed, too. I no longer keep the site open in a tab; I’ve found other weather sites that do a better job of short-term forecasting — at least, for my purposes. I suppose you could say I don’t need a weather underground to know which way the wind blows.

          1. Nice Bob Dylan reference. I know that’s where the name came from.

            Which sites are you using now? I generally look at the US Weather Service page for Amherst. and Weather Street for hour by hour. For things like sky cover I use this page which offers many different weather feature forecasts.

            1. For a general forecast, I use these folks, whom I’ve found to be slightly more dependable than the NWS for medium-range forecasts. For raw data, I like this customizable NOAA page, or Crown Weather. For storms, there is no one who does a better job than a young man I’ve known since his earliest days at WU. I trust his Tropical Tidbits for the quality of information, and he does a fantastic job of putting together his videos.

    1. Cheri, it didn’t hurt at all that the palm trees where these birds were feasting are right outside my second-story window. My expedition to take their photo involved putting the lens on the camera, walking out onto the balcony, and after a few shots, remembering to change the settings. At the time, that was enough of a challenge.

  10. I laughed at the phrase “such sobriety” since waxwings are known for occasionally feasting on fermented berries. They can get quite drunk. I’ve witnessed it myself!

    We haven’t seen them here this spring, though now and then we do. We have been enjoying a wide variety of birds, though. The catbirds and barred owls are my favorites for their sound.

    1. Even though I’ve heard the tales of inebriated waxwings, I’ve not seen it. Robins? Oh, yes. I wonder if that was in the poet’s mind? It could be a sly little reference for those in the know.

      I’ve never seen a barred owl. in fact, I’m short on owl sightings generallly. Today’s treat was a pair of curlews, and a meadowlark that I scared up out of the grass. Truth to tell, it startled me as much as I surprised it.

      1. We had a barred owl visit near ground level one day, 4 or 5 years ago, so we could see it. That’s the only time we have. But they live nearby so we hear them call sometimes. Last week we did several nights in a row, around 9pm. But really we’ve heard them all times of day and night, so there doesn’t seem to be a specific time. Usually we just hear one, but now and then there is a real conversation going. Here is a link to All About Birds, with audio for you. Be sure to listen to the 2nd one, also. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barred_Owl/sounds

        1. That’s a great link. It’s so useful to be able to hear actual bird songs and calls. The last time I went looking, I was trying to identify a beautiful, almost liquid trill. It turned out to be a bluejay. Who knew they could do something besides squawk and yell?

          I keep “intending” to go to one of the owl prowls that our local nature center offers. I need to do it — and now, before the mosquitos are unbearable, rather than just nuisances.

  11. I have always loved this poem, but have never seen it in its entirety. And how wonderful to hear and learn something about its author. He sounds very much like someone I would love to meet. I shall seek out a book of his poems. Thanks so much for this introduction!

    1. You’re more than welcome, Tandi. There’s nothing I enjoy quite as much as passing on tidbits that I think others will enjoy. It does surprise me that I’ve never heard of him, but there are several poets I’ve been introduced to in the past decade whom I probably never would have found had I not begun blogging.

      It’s good to see you, too. I hope the new life is suiting you!

  12. How delightful to be introduced to Robert Francis! I didn’t know him, but love this poem and those I heard on the recording. It is a treat to be able to hear the voice behind the words. The photographs are stunning. Did you spend hours waiting for them to “pose”? I’m so glad you were able to match the image and word here!

    1. Poetry really is meant to be spoken, and Francis’s certainly does read well. I’ll be using another of his that I already am famliiar wtih in the future, and I’m eager to read more. I’m so glad you lliked this one.

      I’m glad you like the photos, too. They were taken far more spontaneously than you might imagine, but I’ve already learned one good photography trick — take a couple hundred photos, dump the 164 that are bad, cull the rest, and serve up the few that appeal. Thank goodness for digital! Even I can appreciate the value of being able to engage in a little photographic excess.

  13. Cedar waxwings are such magnificent birds, aren’t they? I presume these photographs are yours, and brava! I remember once, sitting on a three-legged stool under some junipers taking snap after snap of them, none acceptable to me, but still I loved sitting there watching them. Your mention of William Stafford reminds me of a poem of his I’ve always loved, perhaps most of all for “Plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42780

    1. They are mine, indeed. I’ve taken to following your way of doing things, and putting a short note at the bottom of each post indicating that — although I think I forgot to do it on a couple of recent posts.

      A few years ago, a large flock came through when our cypress still was bare, but budding. They were so lovely, even against a cloudy sky. The photos I took then were adequate to recalll their presence, but nothing more. I’m glad now to have some better reminders.

      Stafford is another I’ve come to appreciate. Thanks for adding that link to one of your favorites.

    1. They’re quite a treat when they appear. Some people are lucky enough to have them for extended stays, but we have to make do with an Audubon-style fly-by: maybe two days, maybe three. Of course, you have robins — that makes up for a good bit!

  14. What a wonderful little home — set amid such beauty! I love how he named it “Fort Juniper” in honor of the prevalent flora. I can imagine him walking among such wonders, gathering inspiration. :)

    1. It’s just the right size, as far as I’m concerned. I was interested to read that it’s now offered to writers as a place to stay for a period of time and work on their novel, their poetry, or whatever. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t qualify, but I have to say — the thought of making application did cross my mind.

      1. Oh, I would apply if I were you! Some of those writers’ retreats are just marvelous… And what a GREAT idea to make this beautiful place one such retreat! What harm could come from applying? :)

  15. In my area, it is home to two species of the waxwings. One in particular are the Bohemian, it is quite the experience to see them fly all together as they do. Which ones are near you?

    1. We have the cedar waxwings. They’re a little smaller than the Bohemian, and there are some small differences in their colors, but their behavior and calls are much the same. I have a friend in Alberta who’s photographed the Bohemian waxwing in her area, too.

      When I was culling some photos, I realized that I had seen some in October of last year — just about six months ago, which makes sense in terms of migration. The photos were so truly ghastly they never saw the light of day, except for one I kept just as a record of when they came through.

  16. How fortunate to see these Waxwings. Thanks for introducing Robert Francis. I just love:

    “To sun, to feast, and to converse —
    and all together — for this I have abandoned
    all my other lives.”- Robert Francis.

    Simply beautiful.

    1. Every line in the poem feels perfect to me, but I will say that there’s a certain lilt in those you quoted that makes them even more special. I’m so glad you enjoyed the poem, Maria. One of these days, I’ll share another that he wrote: but it will be about flowers.

  17. Beautiful images of Waxwings, Linda. I’ve learnt a new word – lagniappe – but I still don’t know quite how to pronounce it although I believe it is French so I can have a good stab at it!
    I can understand why poets have always preferred to live in isolated places – wandering through the wood close to our house, I hear birdsong. It’s a loud, clear sound – the only sound – and it has an extraordinary calming effect. I just want to stand and listen as the birds sing.

    1. “Lagniappe” is French, and Cajun French at that. The custom of offering “a little extra” is common in that culture, and quite delightful. Sometimes online pronunciation guides miss the mark, but this one gets it right — at least, to my hearing.

      I was in a hay meadow this weekend that edges one of our bays, and heard birds that aren’t common in my area: especially curlews and bobwhites. There were meadowlarks, too — some of the prettiest singers in all of birdland. You’re right about the calming effect. I suppose part of it is the song, and part that we take the time to listen.

    1. If those feathered philosophers arrive at any good conclusion, I hope they’ll share their wisdom with us! They are beautiful birds — so sleek, and smooth. In the first photo, they’re sitting in a palm tree with a building behind them, and I thought the color of the paint complemented them beautifully. I’m glad you enjoyed the set.

  18. The poem does sound like a kindred soul of yours. (And I enjoyed Otto’s comment right above. The birds are up to something and discussing much right now after so many days of rain and storms. Feathered ones must be philosophers to raise families and live such fragile lives as they do.)
    Cool stuff as always!

    1. I have to laugh — and feel a little badly for — the birds that have been showing up to feed over the past week. They’ve been so waterlogged, it looks like they’re bathing in a puddle when they fluff their feathers. But, there are hungry babies waiting to be fed, and there’s no time to waste.

      I was in Palacios over the weekend, and had forgotten how lovely it is to listen to the birds early and late. Not only that, there wasn’t a pigeon in sight. I don’t mind them, but I do sometimes wish they wouldn’t blockade my feeders.

  19. The colors are wonderful in these images. I especially like the first, as with the white background the colors of the birds and leaves take on a rather artistic feel. So glad you are getting out and photographing!! Hopefully many more before it gets way too hot to chase them down!!

    1. I fear it’s too late, Judy. I’ve noticed that things are heating up already. That doesn’t mean an end to work or play, but it certainly does mean a little more planning. I have noticed that by mid-afternoon the birds disappear for a time. Then, about four, the green herons and egrets reappear, and later the songbirds. It won’t be long before I join them, and start running every air-conditioned errand I can find in the mid-afternoon.

      I never expected to have photos of waxwings this year, but it was delightful to see them. I found a pair of small shorebirds this past weekend that I’d never seen, and I’m looking forward to identifying them. The male was quite fancy — not your average runabout!

    1. Isn’t it fun to hear poetry read? I suspect you’ll like what you hear. I certainly did. I’m glad you like the photos, too. They certainly pleased me — sightings of waxwings are sporadic around here, and now I have a little souvenir of their visit.

  20. What a beautiful poems, Thank you for introducing me this poet. I love these birds, and amazing photographs. As always it was amazing moment to read what you shared with us dear Linda, Love, nia

    1. Thank you, Nia. I hope you got to see some wonderful birds on your recent travels. Of course, once you got there, I’m sure it was a tiny human who took your time and attention! I’m glad you had a safe trip — thanks for stopping by. ~ Linda

  21. Thanks for intro. me to Robert Francis. Glad to know he was a birder. Always glad too to read a poem about birds, and sure, with Waxwings as the title. We have Waxwings, both the Cedar (warmer months) and the Bohemian (colder). But I haven’t seen any this year. Those photos are lovely. Did you take them? Actually Waxwings are ‘hardy’ birds here in Alberta. Good to see a poet south of the border saw them worthy of poetry. :)

    1. I did take the photos, and was quite happy with them. At this point, you can assume the photos on the blog are mine, unless I note otherwise. I have started putting a note to that effect at the bottom of each entry, just so people know.

      It’s interesting that you have both species of waxwings. Another Canadian reader noted the same thing. Now that I’ve compared their photos, I think I could distinguish them — at least, if they were willing to sit still for a minute.

      It was a thrill for me to see them this year. They’re one of my favorites, but they aren’t a usual treat.

  22. The photos are wonderful. I can’t imagine setting out to capture the arrangement in order to illustrate the poem. They could only come together by one of those fortunate accidents that happen to the prepared mind. I am very glad that you are Always Prepared for Wonder.

    I’ve started a comment twice, gone back to check something, lost the comment . . . and in the process read all about Robert Francis, been lost in a reverie about my grandmother and her affection for cedar waxwings, and found a new weather forecasting site. This is a dangerous place for a distractible person to visit.

    1. It really was something.I took the photos, and they lollygagged around until one day, many weeks later, i discovered the poem. I pulled out the pics, found I had some with four birds and one with a berry-beaked beauty, and a post was born. It was a great example of your point. A combination of preparation and serendipity can produce real delights.

      Distractible? You? Perhaps — but possibly just curious and responsive. “Curious” and “responsive” have a lot going for them, including the fact that no one’s trying to medicate them out of existence: at least, not yet.

  23. Love those waxwings. We have flocks that swoop in yearly for our mulberries. Trees are full, and then they’re not. Like magicians, they make the berries disappear. I’m not sure if they are cedar or Bohemian but they are beautiful. Thanks for the lovely post.

    1. I just learned, after this season’s visit by the birds, that the cedar have a white line above their eye that helps to distinguish them. Also, the belly of the Bohemian is gray, while the cedar’s is yellow. Both species are delightful, that’s for sure.

      You’re exactly right about the way they can consume food. It’s very much a now you see it, now you don’t, kind of phenomenon. I’m just glad the landscapers left the fruits on the palm trees this year, so there was soemthing to attract them.

      Thanks for stopping by, Lisa, and for commenting. You’re always welcome here. ~ Linda

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