Winter Finches, Latham- 1/19


On a walk along the bike path in Latham, I encountered groups of finches in several locations. I heard at least two flyover Red Crossbills ("jip-jip") near the parking lot. The highest concentration, both heading eastbound and then on the return leg, was at the gravel pull off about 1000' east of Chrissie B's Farm & Greenhouse on River Rd. There are many ash and alder trees with catkins and last year's cones, which seemed to be the attraction for the birds. Two large flocks of redpolls were zooming back and forth from the open field on the south side the road to the trees surrounding the bike path. I also heard, and then located with binoculars, a half-dozen White-winged Crossbills atop an ash tree. At one point a group of finches settled in a stand of alders adjacent to River Rd., at eye level. At first it was a small flock of Pine Siskins, but they were soon joined by Common Redpolls. One of the redpolls was noticeably "frostier" than the rest, with no streaks on the flanks (or the rump when it hung upside down) and a different head/face shape. It was easy to follow this bird among the flock, even when they left briefly and returned. I marked it as a Hoary Redpoll, although the debate as to whether Common & Hoary are really distinct species continues. Visually, it was clearly cleaner and paler than its cohorts. There was also a Brown Creeper that flew in to investigate the ruckus. Finally, at the extensive wet/reedy area near the Buhrmaster Rd. intersection there was a flock of 38 Red-winged Blackbirds, which I presume to be "never left-ers" rather than "early returnees."

Tom Williams