In what has otherwise been a rather pale fall color season, the North Shore has one bright red color stand-out: the huge mounds of berries from the mountain-ash trees. Pictured above is one clump of berries right outside the Grand Portage National Monument headquarters. Driving from Grand Marais to Duluth through the grey rain yesterday, I couldn't help but see succulent red clumps all the way down the shore. And I'm red-green colorblind! These berries are R-E-D.
Mountain-ash berries are an invitation to riot. The invitation is directed right at flocks of waxwings. 30 or 40 waxwings will descend out of nowhere onto a mountain-ash tree and mow through the hundreds of berries, denuding a tree within an hour. They swallow the berries whole. No time to chew. Then they move on. It really is one of nature's great spectacles.
Thanks to YouTube, I can share a video of Bohemian Waxwings doing their thing:
Hey, waxwing flocks: Get up here! If I could post to a "berry condition" hotline for birds, I'd be posting this one all over.
FYI There are two types of waxwings, Cedar Waxwing and Bohemian Waxwing. Local birders suggest that the Cedar Waxwings are here in the summer and the Bohemian Waxwings are here in the winter. Either type of bird has a feast awaiting it on the North Shore.