Jan 20 2009
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.)