I took a sip of crisp white wine then froze as my friend hissed, “Don’t move. There is a Redpoll at the feeder.” I angled my eyes over toward the feeder. Then slowly set my glass back on the table. At the feeder chowing down was a Redpoll, four more were in the trees eyeing us and the feeder, clearly wanting to eat but not terribly comfortable with our presence. We sat like statues until a Downy Woodpecker flew to a nearby suet feeder frightening the Redpolls. They all took off. I jumped up and hustled into the house to get my camera out of my bag.
I had popped over to a friend’s house for dinner and we were sitting in our coats on their a deck on a chilly early April evening, sipping white wine, eating Saga Blue, laughing and catching up. She had been emailing me about the Redpolls all week.
The feeders were hopping with Chickadees, Titmice, a family group of Downies, a Red-bellied, a smallish flock of Goldfinches and Redpolls. Her deck is ideally suited for bird photography. It is high and the property slopes down, so we were amidst the trees. We sat swilling wine; talking about work, blogging, Redpolls, the Adirondacks, writing, Redpolls, travel, what we were reading and Redpolls.
They are on their way north, her deck feeders were nothing but a way station on their trip but it was nice of them to lay-over for a few days.
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.