And the latest lifer is...a red crossbill. Even better, both my daughter and I had a chance to see this bird so the day was about as ideal as it can be for A Birding Parent. Of course, our excursion was not by accident, there had been reports of Red Crossbills showing some breeding behaviour in the Ganaraska Forest Reserve, a large tract of forest, about forty-five minutes east of Toronto.
|Trail at Ganaraska Forest|
My daughter and I arrived at the Ganaraska Forest Centre a little later than I had hoped and I was a bit worried. As we walked along the ski/hiking trails ( still icy in spots ), it was very quiet. In fact, there seemed to be very little bird activity at all, outside of a SONG SPARROW in the parking lot, a few AMERICAN ROBINS and a lonely looking HERMIT THRUSH. And even though the thrush would have been my first of the season, a sense of disappointment was creeping in. What made me feel doubly bad was the fact that my daughter was in tow. She had been a bit hesitant to come at all, since it was kind of cold this morning. She let me know it too. Once we were in the forest, the lack of wind chill seemed to bolden her spirits and she was soon picking sticks off the trail and pointing out weird looking fungus.
We soldiered on, eventually reaching the junction of two ski trails where crossbills had been "easy" to spot. Approaching this junction, we startled a flock of small birds that were feeding among the grasses and shrubs along the trail. One of these birds was a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET and there were a couple of DARK-EYED JUNCOS among this group. I followed the birds into a group of tall Norway Spruce and while trying to spot these little guys, a significantly larger bird darted out from the tree tops and landed in a leafless tree. One glance through my binoculars confirmed that this bird was a RED CROSSBILL ! After some celebration, we followed the trail back to the parking lot, catching a glimpse of a beautiful hawk...although I'm still figuring out the ID. More stickwork, fungi spotting and a little bit of complaining followed before we wrapped up the day.
|Peziza praetervisa ( 90% sure...)|
I probably had two more Crossbills perched in trees along the road to the Ganaranaska Forest Centre but they were gone before I could get my binoculars up for an ID. Anyways, it was a very satisfying morning. Red Crossbills have not an easy mark for my life list. When words like "nomadic" and "wandering erratically" are used in their description, their yearly movement are obviously tough to predict. Even in good years, these birds tend to be rare in southern Ontario. Even when White-winged crossbills irrupted south a couple of years ago in large numbers, Red crossbills were rarely found in southern Ontario. This year, the evergreen trees in the Ganaraska Forest are producing large numbers of cones and I guess a group of crossbills stumbled upon them and decided that the forest would be a good place to set up shop and breed. Luck for them...and lucky for me too ! Of course, once my daughter and i returned home, we celebrated as any conquering heroes would...Cupcakes for everyone !!!
If you would like to try for these crossbills, I encourage you to check out this post from the Ontbirds website. It is the one I followed and it did not disappoint. I'll include another seperate post from a few days later, just to give you a better idea of numbers and how to find these birds.
Check out the Ganaraska Forest web-site for directions and maps; The paper maps at the park are not very good for orienting yourself.