Monday, January 24, 2011

Crossbills - how sweet it was!!!!!

Isaac and Seth enjoying looks at White-winged Crossbills
If there were birds that proved elusive for me the last two years, it had to be both Crossbills. A species tied to an irruptive year, I dipped on several chases in 2009 and last year did not prove lucky for me either. I must note that all my chases were in NY. This year, I decided to expand my search and monitored reports in the Tri-state area. I began to think that I might have a shot when the reports of both species of Crossbills being seen at Seven President’s Park in Long Branch New Jersey, remained consistent for several weeks. It so happened that last Monday, while birding at Jones Beach on Long Island NY, I ran into a couple of fellow Queens birders, Corey from 10000birds and Seth Ausubel. I don’t remember exactly how Crossbills came up, but I do remember that when Seth mentioned that he was also thinking of paying a visit to 7 President’s Park, I immediately suggested we combined forces. We communicated during the week and planned our trip for Sunday.  On Sunday, Seth, Isaac Grant and I drove out to 7 President’s Park. We arrived in good time and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed birders near Japanese Black Pines. Their body language suggested that they had something good to look at. I wasted no time gathering gear and hurrying out of the car. As I exited the car, I heard and saw a few birds flying over. Studying Crossbills calls had paid off even though I winced at the realization that they were Red Crossbills (loxia curvirostra). Did I miss them...again was my thought? Glancing over to the group of birders, I saw that they were still focusing on whatever it was they had in the Pines, so I hurried over.

Digiscoped White-winged Crossbill Copyright Seth Ausubel All Rights Reserved.
As soon as got to a vantage point where I could see what they were looking at I began scanning the tree. At first all I could make out were a few Red-breasted Nuthatches Sitta canadensis); then, I saw a bird pop out from behind a Pine Cone and then it was gone. A Crossbill no doubt from its bill, but which one? I moved up on the group trying to keep my eye on the location on where I had seen the Crossbill. A bird flew down to the ground and I keyed in on it. Crossbill with broad white wing bars and white tertial tips. Thundering Typhoons!!! It was a White winged-crossbill (Loxia leucoptera)!!! I soaked in the bird, observing its cone crunching behavior then I switched modes and began taking photos. I had to document my first Crossbill. By then Isaac and Seth had joined me and they too got on the White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera). Soon, two additional White-winged Crossbills (Loxia leucoptera) appeared and we changed our viewing spot and got even better looks.

Digiscoped White-winged Crossbill Copyright Seth Ausubel All Rights Reserved.
Seth, had forgotten his camera that he uses to digiscope and was reluctant to leave and go back for it, but after some urging from me, he retrieved his camera from the car. He had no regrets, getting some outstanding digiscoping shots of the birds (some of which I have used with this post). After we had our fill, of White-winged Crossbills (Loxia leucoptera), we then split up and walked around looking for Red Crossbills (loxia curvirostra). Isacc, found a couple of birders and photographers looking at a Red Crossbill (loxia curvirostra)on the snow and called Seth and I.

Red Crossbill (loxia curvirostra)
However, by the time we got there the Crossbill was not visible. As I stood near the birders, I heard chirping that sounded unlike something I was familiar with. My first thought was Crossbill, but I could not pinpoint the location. By then Isaac had maneuvered to the other side of the Pine Tree to get another angle and it paid off as he spotted a Red Crossbill (loxia curvirostra) munching on a Cone in the tree. Seth and I hurried around to Isaac’s side and got on the bird. A second Red Crossbill (loxia curvirostra) soon appeared and sat for a while chirping, confirming it was the sound I had heard before.

Red Crossbill (loxia curvirostra) munching on snow.
How sweet it was, getting both Crossbills on one trip. We made one other stop at Shark River Inlet where Isaac found a second winter Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) among the many Gulls that were near the jetties. We called it a day soon after as the cold was starting to take its toll on us. It was a satisfying day with great looks at 2 lifers.

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BirdGalAlcatraz said...

Loved reading this, Andrew. The excitement is palpable!

cindyzlogic said...

Fantastic, Andrew!! I'll bet you were excited! Your shot of the Crossbill is super! the digiscoped shots were wonderful!


@BirdGalAlcatraz - Hi Jann, thanks. It's pretty obvious how excited this was for me -:

I did not mention that in my excitement, I failed to properly protect my hands and later on, I could not feel my fingers from the cold. Not a good thing, but I escaped unscathed more the wiser :)


@cindyzlogic - Hi Cindy, what do you think? I must have been grinning the whole time despite the brutal chill :)

Those digiscope shots by Seth Asubel are fantastic! I opted to use his photos of the WW Crossbill because I liked them so much.

I am glad you liked them!

Kyle said...

Great story and wonderful shots of the Red Crossbill, Andrew! Good luck to you and the rest of the Kingbirds this weekend. :-)


@Kyle - Thanks Kyle for the nice comment re: the Crossbills and the well wishes for this weekend.