Jan 20 2009

Crossbills Close to Home

Published by at 6:15 am under Migration,Songbirds

White-winged Crossbills (photo by Cris Hamilton)
Yes, I did see crossbills in Pittsburgh last week.  Here’s my update – which is beginning to sound like All Crossbills, All The Time.

Last Wednesday while I was dreaming of a crossbill road trip to Washington Cemetery, Dan Yagusic found them at Allegheny Cemetery in the city of Pittsburgh.

On Thursday I took my binoculars to work and spent my lunch hour riding the 54C bus from Oakland to the cemetery’s Penn Ave entrance, then walking in.   I found the birds almost immediately.  In fact I heard them in Section 19 before I saw them flying from tree to tree.  They would not stay put.  Eventually I walked to Section 25 where Dan said they should be.  There I found several birders but no crossbills.  Oh well.  I had to get back to work.

Thursday’s brief view was not enough so I drove to the cemetery on Saturday morning for another look.  It was cold!  Below zero!

I entered the cemetery from Penn Avenue and again heard the crossbills almost immediately.  They were feeding in a hemlock above me but soon zoomed off to another tree at the base of the hill.  I followed them on foot and watched them feeding for about five minutes, long enough to get good looks at their acrobatics.  Then they left.

Again at Section 25 I found birders but no birds.  We chatted for a while and waited.  The crossbills passed through twice.  Then I was too cold to stay any longer.

As I walked back to my car the crossbills visited a tree above me but I moved too quickly and startled them – and they were gone.

As is usual with my bird quests, I had no trouble finding my target birds when I wasn’t looking for them.  And when I went to the place they should be, they weren’t there.

p.s.  Last Thursday I called Eagle Optics in Wisconsin about an order and ended up talking to Mike McDowell who also writes a birding & digiscoping blog.  Wisconsin is having a crossbill invasion too and Mike’s blog has a neat video showing how crossbills feed on hemlock cones.

(photo of White-winged Crossbills by Cris Hamilton.  I love how the female bird on the right looks like she’s jumping.)

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