White-winged Crossbill

Each winter, Ingrid and I hope to locate a White-winged Crossbill high up in Maine spruce trees.  Some years we are lucky enough to see one or two . . . some years none at all.

The White-winged Crossbill, is a stocky bird with a large head, a unique bill and it lives most of its life in the boreal (spruce) forests of Canada.   A few will dip into the northern USA each winter, feeding on cones at the top of trees.

This morning, I got up before dawn and headed to Reid State Park for a little early morning birding.  Ingrid slept in . . . still recovering from the excitement of the birth of her first Grandchild on Thursday.

The fog was very heavy, I wasn’t seeing much, and after 90 minutes was about to give up when I heard a machine-gun-like rattle and a high pitched tooting . . . like a toy truck.  I was sure I was hearing White-winged Crossbills.    But no one sees (or hears) White-winged Crossbills in July!!!

Thru the fog, I could see the birds high in the nearby trees . . . but not clear enough to photograph and the mosquitoes were making my life miserable.  I managed to get a recording of their “machine-gun song” and headed to the car.

After the fog burned off, Ingrid and I returned to the beach (along with hundreds of tourist) in an effort to confirm the “White-winged”.  We eventually found a large flock of Crossbills moving through the spruce trees adjacent to the parking lot.    We climbed to the top of Griffin’s Head . . . a granite hill overlooking the beach . . . and had a birds-eye view of our quarry.

To see 30+ White-winged Crossbills in Maine in January would be unexpected . . . to see that many in July is unbelievable.

Our theory is that these birds have been driven out of Canada by the forest fires that have been blazing for weeks . . . but we really don’t know.

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