Sunday, August 16, 2009


It was forecast to be a warm and humid summer day so I decided to head out early and do some birding over at the Burnt-Rossman Hills State Forest. As usual, it was well worth getting up before dawn and making the trip.

I found this Mourning Warbler in an area that I wasn't really expecting. It was fairly deep in a mature forest. It was not singing and it was in an area that I had birded in the previous months and not noticed one. I had to wonder if it was a bird that was either unsuccessful at breeding or had finished it's breeding responsibilities and was already meandering south.

They have a very distinct chip call and this bird gave me an opportunity to study it some more.

A while later I heard the sounds of a fledgling begging for food. It turned out to be a young Blue-headed Vireo.

The parent birds were close by and once they started to scold me I knew it was time to leave.

And here was one of the reasons I decided to spend some time at Burnt-Rossman today. Having spotted Red Crossbills a couple of weeks ago near my home, I was curious if they had also found their way here. They sure had. I found this bird in a stand of larch. I had a tough time getting a decent view of it as it was about 60ft up in a dense stand. I was content with the few limited views that I got and moved on down the road.

I was attempting to get some pictures of a less than cooperative juvenile Yellow-rumped Warbler, when two birds flew out of a stand of White Pine and landed on some electrical wires.

I walked around them to get a little better lighting. They kept looking down to the ground and I knew what they were after. It seemed so surreal to be looking at two of them on a 80 degree day perched on an electrical wire. I guess anything is possible.

The crossbills eventually descended to the dirt road below and started to search for grit.
When you spend all day eating pine and spruce seeds, you need tiny pieces of stone and sand in your gut to help with the digestive process.

Not only do Red Crossbills have unique bills that allow them to pry open cones and extract seed, but they also have specially evolved tongues that help them with the process.

When you get an up close look at them you realize just how rugged a bird they are.
A plump, stout body combined with muscular legs and feet. And lets not forget that vice-like bill. Quite the coniferous cone wrecking machine.

They both are actually first year birds and you can see some small patches of red starting to show on the male in the background. The female has a lot more gray on the neck and back.

You have to wonder what these two birds will be up to in the coming months if they stick around.

A little while later I spotted this adult male Red Crossbill in a different location. This picture sums up one of the problems they are facing. Lots of cone on the pines and spruce, unfortunately none of it is ripe... yet.

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