[Tweeters] Skagit Pine Grosbeak, WW Crossbills

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 2 17:18:37 PST 2020

Dear Tweeters,
First off, a hearty commendation to Mike Nelson for figuring out that the hills above Lake Cavanaugh are really good for late autumn birding!
Today, the second of December, Joel Brady-Power and I met up at the Deer Creek Road and headed up to look for finches. Cordia Sammeth happened to have the same idea in mind, so we three walked up together. 
This birding hike starts from a stout yellow gate along the Deer Creek Road, which is above Lake Cavanaugh in Skagit County. The road leaves the South Shore Road just 150 meters or so east of the public boat launch. The yellow gate is closed, so there are no motor vehicles to worry about above the gate. The whole walk is on logging roads, rather than trails; the highest portion of the hike is on a logging road that has been taken out of service, so it is a bit rougher than a trail, but still quite easy.
After hiking for a little while, we had superb, close views of a flock of about 35 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS that flew in and started feeding on alder strobiles. Then the dropped to a rivulet and took drinks, giving us even closer views, looking downwards. I put a colorful ribbon at the spot. 

A few hundred meters above that spot, Joel heard a soft call. Soon we were treated to excellent views of a male PINE GROSBEAK. I put a ribbon there, too. 

We did not have to hike up to the top, which was where Mike had found three Pine Grosbeaks on Sunday. Cordia kept on going up beyond the Pine Grosbeak spot today, but Joel and I turned around after we'd seen our second rare species of the day! Joel and I ended up walking just 2.4 miles up and 2.4 miles down, over the course of two hours and fifty-five minutes. An early start is, of course, advised--winter birding in the mountains gets very slow in the afternoon.
Mike, Joel and I had done this same hike on Monday, only in horrendous conditions of sleet and wind. Today the weather was balmy and the skies clear. Last week, I also hiked up twice on another logging road in that area, but did not find the White-winged Crossbills that Mike had found there. One might imagine that almost any logging road in that area could have these birds right now. We kept seeing flocks of finches flying over all morning--Pine Siskins, Red Crossbills, and others that we could not ID.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch
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