A small flock of singing White-winged Crossbills was reported from Sullivan County, New York in the middle of August, in the same locale as the Pine Grosbeak last winter. They are one of the life birds that I have been trying to get for years. With their erratic wandering though; finding them has not been easy. Since there were still postings on the ListServ; I decided to make seeing them a priority over the holiday weekend. Everytime I told someone I wanted to drive to the Catskills to try to see White-winged Crossbills, I would get the eye-roll. I don’t get it. It is not that far. Well, at least not from my house. So directions in hand, and a general idea of where I was going, I headed up alone into the mountains.
It took me slightly over an hour to drive to the boreal bog where the Crossbills were being seen. Two women with straps adorning their bodies were intently scanning the tree tops as I pulled up. Anxiously, I stopped to ask if they were looking for the Crossbills. With nods and smiles they assured me that I was in the right place. Eileen and Ann Marie had driven all the way from Long Island to see them, again.
Having been to see them several weeks earlier, they knew which trees they were frequenting. As we stood chatting, we listened and scanned the tops of the trees for movement. White-winged Crossbills are partial to trees with small cones like hemlock, larch and spruce. There, they were eating black spruce cones. We heard the trilling before we saw them.
I first saw movement high in a tree across the road from where we were standing. The bird was backlit but I could see two distinctive flashes of white wing marks. We crossed over to get a better look. Ann Marie and Eileen got on it and said they saw red. Red. Two white wing marks. The bird was flitting and hopping at the top of a spruce. I kept losing him amongst the branches, but then he popped out into a sunlit window and sat. I could not have asked for better view. The camera, of course, was in the car.
Eileen and Ann Marie are wonderful birders. Ladies, if you want to chase again. Let me know.