Cones on the conifers
I had been eyeing the cones on our conifers this summer with some anticipation and excitement. After all, with cones come crossbills and it was no surprise when both Red and White-winged Crossbills began to show up across the region. They’ve been found in places like the Minerva area, Silver Lake Bog, the area around Paul Smiths, and even more locally in the Bloomingdale Bog area. And so Wren and I have checked out the bog and the complex of habitats which surround it a number of times this summer.
Crossbills and boreal birds
One of the great things about looking for crossbills is that they frequent boreal habitats where birders can also find resident boreal species as well as conifer-loving warblers, and our first walk through Bloomingdale Bog this summer offered us both warblers and the cooperative Gray Jays which frequent the path. A fly-over Red Crossbill was our lone crossbill there that day, but we took a short drive up to Oregon Plains Road and found a couple singing male White-winged Crossbills to complement it.
A couple days later we were back, this time spending more time along Bigelow Road where we found several more White-winged Crossbills – which was great for me since one of my goals had been to photograph them. While the results of the latter were so-so, I enjoyed great looks of the crossbills and we added still more singing birds along Oregon Plains Road. A family group of Gray Jays and a Black-backed Woodpecker along Bigelow Road were also nice finds.
With the crossbills nesting and now fledging young, I’ve heard less song when I’ve been in those habitats of late, but there are still plenty of crossbills around. And they can pop up in lots of places across the region – so birders should keep their ears open for their characteristic flight calls overhead as a result. And so the other day and friend and I took our dogs for a walk along Bigelow Road – in search of pretty much anything.
A walk along Bigelow Road
For the most part, the woods were quiet. The cold front which had brought us cool air and our first taste of fall had the trees swaying and the gray clouds moving overhead and there was a general hush on the landscape as a result. But it was an enjoyable day and we chatted as we walked – coming across groups of Black-capped Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Red-breasted Nuthatches as we did. I tried to spish them up to see if they held any warblers, but the initial flocks proved difficult to attract and they kept any interlopers hidden as a result. Slow though the start of our walk was, I kept at it and we eventually were able to pull out species like Magnolia, Palm, and Nashville Warblers, as well as 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. That’s one of the best things about this time of year – with fall migration upon us there are lots of birds on the move to find.
But as we turned around to retrace our steps to our cars, I was surprised that we hadn’t found any crossbills yet – a situation which was soon rectified when a small group of White-winged Crossbills flew, calling overhead. But we never did hear any song – the parents are busy feeding their likely-fledged young.
Further down the road we came across our largest mixed flock of songbirds of the morning with chickadees, warblers, nuthatches, kinglets, and – most importantly – two Boreal Chickadees which fed in the trees near the road before moving out of sight. A short distance further along our walk we found three Gray Jays – although these jays are not nearly as cooperative as those in Bloomingdale Bog.
We reached the cars without finding a Black-backed Woodpecker, but I had seen one only two days before at the parking area for Lake Clear Beach – a bit of an odd place to find one, but another reminder that birds show up in all sorts of places where we say they shouldn’t. And that is particularly true of migrants moving through the region right now and of northern finches like crossbills which always seem like they are on the go. So don’t hesitate to get out and explore if you want to look for migrants, crossbills, or anything else – because there’s no guarantees that any of them will stick around for long.