This story actually began about 20 years ago, when I planted several red splendor crabapple trees in my yard on a summer day.
My plan was to attract birds and other wildlife, which I hoped would feed on the fruit that would eventually sprout from the new additions to my yard.
As is usually the case with planting new trees, they struggled for a year or two. Then, with plenty of TLC in the form of fertilizing and pruning, a few pink blossoms eventually appeared on several of the trees.
About three years later, tiny red fruit sprouted midsummer. That fall the few mature crabapples were quickly consumed by a flock of migrating robins, much to my delight.
Fast forward to this winter: My crabapple trees are now roughly 18 feet tall, sporting thousands of small red apples about a half inch in diameter. Over the years they have provided food for a wide variety of birds and other wildlife.
Earlier this winter, following a heavy snowfall and during the subsequent blast of arctic air, I glanced out my window and noticed a flock of cedar waxwings were finding my crabapples to their liking. The birds, maybe a dozen or so, fed feverishly on the colorful fruit. The waxwings probably spent the prior day hunkered down and hiding from the storm. Now they were hungry.
I quickly gathered my photography gear, bundled up against the subzero temperatures and stepped outside. The sky was cobalt blue, the air crisp and clear — ideal conditions for photography.
Cedar waxwings are relatively tame birds, especially during winter when they are hungry. As I approached the feeding flock, they paid me no mind, a photographer's dream come true.
I cautiously advanced, moving about 20 feet from the feeding birds. Then I planted the legs of my tripod in the snow and began shooting frame after frame of the vibrant birds.
About the time my fingers became stiff from the cold, the flock of cedar waxwings left in unison, as they usually do. But not before I captured a number of satisfying images.
Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.