A Testimonial

Jeffrey Schoonmaker

There were no Red Crossbills by the kiosk puddle or visible from trees we scanned between 8:30 and 9 a.m.  There were no W-w Crossbills across the lake from the red brick building in Central Park between 9:30 and 10 a.m., despite multiple birders searching.  Doris and I couldn't keep looking in case they showed up due to fixed commitments.  It was disappointing.

At 12 o'clock she went off to her luncheon date with friends, and I went next door to let out my neighbor's dog and watch him in the yard for 15 minutes.  Once the dog was loose, I walked to the edge of the back yard and stood on a little mound where I had a good vantage point to see down the back hill and to the little run-off stream that meandered by.

Within minutes a motley red bird flew onto a bare branch below my line of sight.  It looked a little different, so I got my binoculars right on it.  It was facing away from me, but its back and head didn't look like a House Finch, (its back was red) and it seemed a little larger than that, as well.  A crazy thought flashed through my head.  "Could it possibly be . . . ?!  I've got to see its bill!"  Just then if flew to another clear branch and struck a sideways view.  Its bill had a distinctive hook!  Oh my!  I was seeing a Red Crossbill right behind my neighbor's house!  It flew down to the stream for a drink, was joined by a second male, and then a third bird joined them that wasn't red but had an obvious hook to its bill. Good heavens!  I was seeing both the male and the female Red Crossbill, a first in NYS for me and only the second time in my life.  

After satisfying their thirst, the three birds flew up and over the trees diagonally across the yard and also across my yard next door.  There were 4 pine trees across the street laden with cones, and, after letting the dog back in the house, I scanned them for a few minutes.  I only barely caught the most fleeting of glimpses of a bird flitting from one hidden spot to another.  Not being able to identify it, I couldn't justify adding that species to my yard list.  Rats!

Then it hit me.  "Wait a minute.  I watched them fly across my yard!  That counts!"  They are now proudly my 128th yard bird.  What a turnaround in my day!