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  • Sharon White

Cedar Waxwings, Aldo Leopold, and the Biotic Community

Updated: Feb 22

A man who grows strawberries near here for a little extra cash shot seven cedar waxwings and a chipping sparrow. They were eating his fruit, he said, and it’s part of his livelihood. The wildlife officers said what he was doing was illegal. He didn’t know, he told them, he was just defending his produce. The local paper said they hoped he learned his lesson, you just can’t go around shooting songbirds anymore, but felt that his fine shouldn’t be too steep. (He could have just put a net over the berries.)



I’ve seen cedar waxwings in a bog in northern New Hampshire, where they nest. The tiny babies are as beautiful as their parents, soft grey with a splash of yellow and spots of red on their wings, and a jaunty crest. They’re common birds, the shooter said. How can you call a cedar waxwing common? I barely see them at all. I had to look up a chipping sparrow. Their song is the sweetest of the spring songs. The only birds it’s legal to shoot around here are pigeons, according to the newspaper. We don’t seem to be inundated with the clever birds.


The air cleared this morning, and I inspected the storm damage in the garden. Not bad. The peach colored hollyhock is still standing pressed against its stake. The pink flocks are spewed, bent on their neighbors, and the short blue delphinium is flashy and filled with raindrops. On the edge of the woods, where the deer nibble the hydrangeas, are two wild orchids blooming. The have green and brown blooms that open their tiny mouths to the shimmering air. I found red trilliums growing there, too, early in the spring. None of this is common. It’s a kind of magic show for free.

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