I started to hear talk of a possible winter finch invasion sometime in the fall. There were notices published on the various ListServs about the dearth of food sources in the north woods. You could hear the muttering through the emails. Then the odd winter finch started showing up at feeders. There was a building excitement over random Purple Finches and Pine Siskins. Then reports started trickling in of Evening Grosbeak. Now, that is a beautiful bird and worth seeking out. But the holidays came putting a whammy on it.
So it was not until a few weeks ago that I was able to go with a friend to the Catskills to look for winter finches. We drove 2 hours with detailed directions and a local county map. It was a brittle, cold but sunny day with lots of snow cover. The wind was fierce every time we got out of the car.
I was hoping for a Hoary Redpoll, she for Pine Grosbeaks.
We crawled up and down the back roads peering at pines trees, commenting on the delicious looking pinecones and where, oh where, were the Crossbills?
We saw 100s of Common Redpolls, no Hoary. We missed the Evening Grosbeaks by 15 minutes. Disheartened we drove to the stand of crabapples where the Pine Grosbeaks were reported. When we pulled up, it looked like we had missed out again. But as we pulled beside the trees, dozens of Pine Grosbeaks were nibbling the crabapples. Then, something spooked them and they irrupted and flew off.
We decided to eat our lunch and wait. Shortly, the birds returned and we were able to get excellent looks at them. They are as ridiculously tame as the Birder’s Handbook says.
We ended the day at the Wallkill with great views of Short-Eared Owls.
I love winter birding. You never know what may show up. I am still on a look out for a Hoary Redpoll.