Monday, December 24, 2012

Nuthatches & Crossbills

This post is about a serendipitous walk through Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus, OH.  You may be wondering why I would be visiting a cemetery where no one I know is buried.  The reason was because we wanted to catch a glimpse of some white-winged crossbills which had been hanging out there for a few months.  Ben's family is from Columbus and I'm visiting for Christmas, so yesterday we all went out to the cemetery in hopes of seeing a crossbill.  The first 45 minutes or so we didn't see much.  It was cold and had just snowed a few days ago, but fortunately the sun was out.  After a while, we caught up with a winter flock of chickadees, cardinals, and juncos chattering in the thickets.  No crossbills yet, even though we were surrounded by spruce trees laden with cones.  Then Ben and Bob, his stepdad, decided to check out a red oak because the leaves on the ground looked interesting.  Out of nowhere, several nuthatches (at least 3, 1 red-breasted and at least 2 white-breasted) popped up and starting foraging all over the boughs of the oak.  It was awesome!  Mainly because the red-breasted nuthatch has eluded me since this summer when Ben and I were hiking around Long Island and I kept hearing them honking way up in the treetops, but never caught a glimpse of one.  I did see a white-breasted nuthatch on LI though.  Nuthatches are tiny, interesting, hyperactive birds that climb all over tree trunks and branches while foraging.  They also make incredibly loud and distinctive noises despite their tiny size. 

Seeing these nuthatches in full sunlight, on a leafless winter tree, and together on the same tree climbing around and emitting tiny yelps was such a cool experience.  But then things got even better, because after we left that tree we came across a group of white-winged crossbills eating snow from a crack in another tree!

(Photo by Ben)
We watched the crossbills for a while as they flew up into some sweetgums and started eating the ball fruits.  Finally a few did fly over to the spruces and we actually saw them eat the cones, which was neat.
Male white-winged crossbill foraging.

House finch

A very cold-looking junco
Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker where you can kind of see the red splotch on its belly

Yellow-bellied sapsucker