Open for Breakfast

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Jan. 6-12, 2018

After much planning, sawing, hammering, and decorating, the Inn dining room is now open for breakfast for our human residents, who can descend on a cold winter morning to enjoy their eggs, toast, and fruit.  But there are other breakfast buffets at Lathrop–for our birds.

For several years, Sharon and I have been setting up a breakfast buffet around our home on Huckleberry Lane.  The first thing we did was to remove the invasive Oriental bittersweet vines that were strangling a row of crabapple trees across from our front yard.  The trees are now thriving and loaded with fruit.  Then we planted a native winterberry bush, now full of bright red berries that typically last into the winter (hence its name), and provide important food for birds.

On New Year’s morning, our breakfast buffet served its purpose. It was 4 degrees, with several inches of snow and ice on the ground–tough conditions for birds.  And here came a flock of perhaps 30 or 40 cedar waxwings, chittering energetically to each other, zooming from nearby trees to our crabapple trees and our winterberry bush.  They perched on branches or hovered just below them, picking off the fruit in their beaks, then dashing off to find more. It looked like a motel breakfast bar when a visiting team of junior-high basketball players descends in the morning.

Cedar waxwings travel in flocks at this time of the year.  Our Massachusetts waxwings don’t migrate.  They are one of the few North American birds that survive almost exclusively on fruit (with insects as a side dish in summer).  So every day, even in the dead of winter, the flock has to find a whole lot of fruit in one place.  And that would be us–the Lathrop Breakfast Buffet.

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