The Himalayan Snowcock sightings in Nevada were certainly equivalent to winning a birding medal, possibly gold, if such a thing existed. As you know, at this point, it is really really hard for me to add a new species to my American Birding Association (ABA) lifelist. What are the odds that I could add a new species to my total the same day as the Himalayan Snowcock adventure?
Well….. the ABA recently decided that the Red Crossbill population in southern Idaho’s Cassia County is actually its own species and added it to the ABA checklist. This thick-billed population is relatively sedentary (non-migratory) and thrives because of the absence of the red squirrel, a competitor for its primary food source – lodgepole pine cones. WildSide Nature tours conveniently arranges a weekend where a skilled guide helps one attempt to see both of these rarities. Since we were able to add the Snowcock so quickly we had time to drive from Nevada’s Ruby Mountains to a campground in the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho’s south hills and search for the Cassia.
A couple of very cooperative Cassia Crossbills were feeding high up in the campground’s lodgepole pines…..just like the field guides state. Notice their large, hooked, crisscrossed bills that enable them to efficiently crack the large cones and eat the nutritious seeds. Full disclosure, my photographs were somewhat unimpressive. However, my new birding friend (Kisa) gave me permission to publish hers. Same bird but her camera.
There are a couple of American women Olympic gymnasts who fared better than expected partly due to a change in another participant’s situation. I feel a little tiny bit like one of them may feel. Elated to add (and publish photos of) a life bird but also aware that some good timing and luck played into the final result. A reach comparison perhaps but heck, it’s my blog and I want you to know I’m not completely oblivious to the news headlines:). #793!