This morning, I headed out in search of White-winged Crossbills.
I figured it would be easy.
I was wrong.
Finding Crossbills in their winter range is as easy as trying to find a needle in a haystack. They are nomadic and never stay in one place for very long. They normally don't come any farther south than Ashland but this year, the seed cone crops in Canada failed. Particularly those of the Spruce family.
Crossbills are pine cone specialists. White-winged Crossbills are Spruce cone specialists.
The result of these two factors added together, is widely wandering White-winged Crossbills.
So far this year, they have been seen as far south as Chicago, New York and southern Oregon.
Back to this morning.
I headed north, thinking that the Kickapoo Reserve would have the highest concentrations of Spruce. It does. It just didn't have any concentrations of Crossbills. In fact, it didn't have any Crossbills at all. I'll find them someday......
On the way up, there were many flocks of Snow Buntings alongside the road. I also spotted 12 Horned Larks mixed in with them. Since my mission was finding Crossbills, I didn't stop to check for Longspurs.
After searching every spruce stand between here and the interstate, I gave up and headed home. My list for the day might have been short on Crossbills but I sure wasn't short on raptors. I saw at least 15 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 American Kestrels and 1 adult Bald Eagle.
Otherwise all I saw the entire morning were the usual winter residents.
Watch out Crossbills! I'll find you eventually!