Dr. James J. S. Johnson
“Praise the LORD from the earth … fruitful trees and all cedars … and flying fowl.” (from Psalm 148:7-10)
Each spring gregarious flocks of Cedar Waxwings pass through my part of Texas, as they migrate northward toward their breeding grounds. No “lone rangers” here! Cedar Waxwings travel in flocks of many dozens–sometimes even hundreds–synchronizing their fast-food stopovers along the way, to refuel for the next aerial leg of their migratory trek. And trees or bushes with red berries are a particular favorite of Cedar Waxwings. Although the nutritional details are a bit technical — as noted below* — waxwings need to balance their sour berry intake with protein-rich pollen, both of which are available during mid-April in my part of Texas, as the flocks of Cedar Waxwings pass through in their flights northward.
So, when these large flocks of colorful waxwings make a “pit stop” for fast-food they often fill the branches of trees as they hastily consume red berries (and other edible nutrients), just before resuming their northbound flights to their spring-through-summer breeding ranges.
On April 7th A.D.2023, a Friday morning, as I observed this hastily convened arboreal assembly of avian migrants, I thought of the traditional assemblies (“things”) of the Vikings — such as those Nordic congregants convened annually in Iceland (Thingvellir’s “Althing”) and on the Isle of Man (at the Manx “Tynwald”), to conduct the serious business of life. Could it be that these Cedar Waxwings were having their own version of an Althing assembly, as they refueled (and rested briefly) during their stopover in the branches of my trees and bushes? Since I cannot understand the language of Cedar Waxwings I cannot know what they conversed about — but I knew that they would vacate northward soon enough, so I would not see them again until the next seasonal migratory pass-through, as they live out the providential phenology of their migratory lifestyle.
What a privilege it was to see God’s Cedar Waxwings–scores of them (perhaps more than a hundred!) as a flock in transit–quickly visiting the trees and bushes on the south side of my home. Surely God’s birds will remind us of His care for us, if we take the time to think about it–and have eyes to see (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24).
In fact, that faith lesson (which is was taught, in ancient times, to the patriarch Job, by God Himself (in Job 38:41), as is noted in the first of the 3 apologetics lectures (shown below) that I gave recently, to a Swedish theology school (Skandinavisk Teologisk Högskola):
God’s Creation Sermon in Job 39: Learning from God’s Animals: https://youtu.be/_ydP8vCTBAY
Viking Skeletons Embarrass Carbon 14 Radiometric Dating: https://youtu.be/Bx40cjdodRM
Why Study Grass and Flowers? Learning from God’s Plants: https://youtu.be/-4SMgqq2waU
So, now for a limerick, that memorializes my observations of the flock of Cedar Waxwings that briefly visited my frontyard earlier this month:
FAST-FOOD/FLY-THRU ALTHING OF MIGRATORY CEDAR WAXWINGS
A flock-full of birds, in my trees,
Gulped down every berry they’d seize;
This arboreal Althing
of the Cedar Waxwing
Soon adjourned—dispersed with the breeze!
[*For technical information, befitting Cornell University, about the diet of Cedar Waxwings, see Mark C. Witmer’s “Nutritional Interactions and Fruit Removal: Cedar Waxwing Consumption of Viburnum opulus Fruits in Spring”, ECOLOGY, 82(11):3120-3130 (November 2001).]