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Friday, December 14, 2012

East Beach, Charlestown, RI - Nov/18/12

Through the hazy paranoia of life came the sweet burbling call of the crossbill and the noise lit a spark of excitement. The sand crunched beneath my feet and I found myself walking down a sandy path. To my left a forest of stunted Japanese Black Pines. to my right that shimmering mass a big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in, that they call the Atlantic.  Off in the distance the hulking form of Block Island is just visible in the distance. In a dazzling wave of color and noise over my head sweep crossbills; hundreds of them. They land around us covering the trees in their radiant joy of life. Mixed in with their warbles I can hear the calls of Red-breasted Nuthatches, chickadees and the occasional siskin and redpoll.

The sky is that clear shade of springtime although in reality winter had but recently come to the beach and as I watched more and more of the handsome crossbills appeared falling from the windless skies in a bubbling and burbling cloud, sheathing the trees in yet another layer of feathers.
The snapping of cones being disassembled surrounded us.

They had come as an eruption from the North. They had arrived at East Beach by wing, a bad cone crop was all it had taken to send the two species wheeling out of control and spilling them across the country.

The spit of land that was East Beach boiled with them, the biologically diverse Red and the opposingly un-diverse White-winged Crossbill. They played a game of cat and mouse: one-day the beach would swarm with Reds the next there wouldn't be Red Crossbill in sight all replaced by their sibling species. That day was one of the latter and in total I positively ID'd a little over ten of the brick red birds. 
As we walked the Jeep trampled road the birds followed, billowing up behind us and trailing us with cheerful calls. The two species themselves could practically be summed in but one word: EFFERVESCENT.

Our shoes weighted by the pixie dust sand we eventually decided that as the Charlestown breachway, our original turn around destination was still quite distant and considering that we had been walking for at least an hour it was time to turn around. 

We slogged back down the beach for a change of scenery, watching gannets diving the azure tinted waters whose usual wavy complexion had all but vanished on this day of days.  

Closer to shore floated loons.  I could see from the beach the crossbills still cracking open cones with those most unique bills and that's when it finally sinks in what a magical day it was in this beautiful world. I don't think that in all my birding days I have ever loved birding more than at that moment!                                                       

A delicious dead gannet

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