January 11, 2021
Crossroads with Crossbills
- as seen by -Jen Kepler
Why am I birding from a parkway median in the middle of winter at the biggest beach destination on Long Island? Jones Beach is a haven for overwintering species like birds of prey, ducks, and other interesting waterfowl, but this year we received a bumper crop of winter finches.
Normally denizens of the North here in New York, their food supply fell short this winter, and they pushed down into our greenspaces, and even further south of us for what is known as an irruptive season. Pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, purple finches, they are all nice and set even the seasoned birders hearts a flutter, but nothing hypnotizes like a group of red crossbills.
Nomadic, moving as a flock from here to there, I hear their unique call as they scour for coniferous trees with ripe cones. Crossbills land right in front of me without a care, fall silent and feast, using their adapted crossed bill to tear into cones that other birds just can’t get to. The crackling of cone scales is deafening. More parrot than finchlike, the birds dangle playfully from the branches as they crunch through unopened cones.
The males in red and females in an olive-yellow (above) are reminiscent of ornaments on a holiday tree as they bounce from cone to cone.
And suddenly, with a few jip-jips, they take off, their group and calls fade into the distance. I’m left enchanted craving more.
So there I go, traveling the Ocean Parkway median, looking to cross paths with more red crossbills.
Nikon D500 with Nikkor 200-500mm Lens