Sunday, February 17, 2013

Exciting Bird!

Today John Wilson and I took off at dawn and drove up past 10,000 feet on South Baldy in the Magdalena Range, surveying a rather unlikely habitat for the annual "Backyard" Bird Count. I doubted that we would see much more than ravens and a few boreal forest- type hardy songbirds of the general type such places share with Montana, Maine, and even Siberia. But I figured most birders would be down below on the Rio Grande Bosque, 4000 or so feet below, and we would have the privilege of making our own discoveries.

For the most part I was right-- the most exciting bird we saw (because entirely local, with no representatives in John's native Ohio) was the not very rare Townsend's solitaire. But just after we turned around at the observatory gate near the highest ridge, I saw a little orange blob on a twig's tip just ahead. I am a bit shortsighted and I wasn't wearing my glasses, and we had just been talking about the wishful pseudo- birds your eyes make out of inanimate objects, but I trained my binocs on it and said "stop, it's a real bird." As he brought up his glasses I thought "WTF, ORANGE?" Not in my winter search programs. By insane Jungian synchronicity we had been talking with Libby over our pre- dawn coffee about a flock of white winged crossbills that had hung around our backyard feeder ten years ago, and as I started to say in awed puzzlement "Crossbill...??" John said firmly, as though reading my mind, "RED". Meaning the other species or, esoterically (look it up) species flock. There were about thirty, feeding and basking and in no hurry at all.

I hadn't seen any red crossbills in over ten years, and never in NM, so it was a "State Life" bird. I took a lousy photo with my pointandshoot, and John took some good ones with his "real" camera, the first to be attached now and the others to come soon. When he regretted the bar being closed to raise a glass to the little wanderers, I remembered that my pack contained a silver half- pint antique flask of vodka. We took our shots and toasted: "Confusion to our enemies!" (me); and "God bless the Czar, and keep him far away from us!" (John). Photos below and to come...

UPDATE: Here is my favorite of John's-- I like the lichen and rock as well as the bird-- and a flock pic. What on earth are they eating?


Reid Farmer said...

Certainly better than showing your stamp collection to an iguana!

Chas Clifton said...

They eat conifer seeds, don't they?

Anonymous said...

Crossbills eat mineral salts also from old rural homes. I have seen them flocking on walls in the Alps.
They feed mostly on pine nuts of a specific plant for each specific specie and breed as soon as the food is available as early as january still with snow, rare occurrance for a finch. They also eat insects and tree gems.