Thanks to information obtained at the last DVOC meeting and information gathered from eBird, I finally pinpointed a reliable location for one of the other winter finches that I need for my life list and the Big Year - White-winged Crossbill. They are reported from all over the area, but rarely 2 days in a row so it doesn't pay to go look in a location where someone saw them yesterday since they probably won't be there today. My frustration got the best of me and I decided to say something about it at the last meeting so I stood up and asked the crowd if I was the only member of the club that hadn't seen one yet. To my surprise, more than 50% of the meeting attendees raised their hands and said that they still had not seen one. It made me feel a little bit better. Then, one of the members told me that they were being seen almost daily on Princeton University's campus.
I showed up at Princeton at 8:30 AM and had the bird by 9:00! At first, I was having trouble finding the location since I thought that crossbills liked pine cones and there were not many pine trees on campus, but then I saw the telltale sign - middle aged men with binoculars in a group. They were really nice guys from Atlantic Audubon club who are also doing a Big Year. While talking to them about how well behaved Roxy is, one of them spotted a single White-winged Crossbill in the Sweet Gum tree across the street. Sure enough, we got it!
She only sat in the tree for about 2 minutes, then popped down to the ground to feed on the Sweet Gum balls (you know, those prickly brown balls that act like marbles under your feet) that were already on the ground. Check out the bill by zooming in.
These birds spend most of their lives in the far north, far away from civilization and people. You would think that they would be skittish. Not this bird. She plopped herself down on the strip of grass between the road and the sidewalk and did not flinch as people walked, jogged and even pulled roller luggage past her. She didn't pay attention to the cars that zoomed past only a foot away from her. She didn't care when the cars stopped at the traffic light. Nope. She just kept picking at the seeds. You can see how close she was to the road in the next photos.
|White-winged Crossbill - roadside|
Here is a photo of one of the Atlantic Audubon guys that helped me find the bird. He is standing on the sidewalk trying to photograph the bird. I love this photo since it also shows how close the cars are coming too. The rest of the photos above were taken from the other side of the street. I left Roxy with the other Audubon guy, John, since I didn't want to tempt fate.
I missed out on getting any other birds yesterday but I did score a goal in my hockey game. I would consider that a pretty good day!
When do we update the heading to "50 something..." from "Stories, photos and travel logs from my group of
40-something friends "The Bird Nerds"."
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