I had a chance to spend about 90 wonderful minutes with a flock of White-winged Crossbills at Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.
And at long last, it turned out to be a very cooperative flock. The entire time I was present, the birds were actively feeding
in a small patch of hemlock trees in section 25 of the cemetery. I noticed that when approaching a new hemlock, the birds
would always fly into the top of the tree to begin, but as they continued to feed, thet began to cascade down the tree
until the majority of them were on the branches at eye level. Then they would fly to the top of another tree and repeat the
process, like some kind of crossbill conveyor belt. By keeping a low profile as they switched trees, I was able to position
myself at the base of the tree they were in and wait for them to descend. The technique worked so well that, well, now I can
say that I have had both Pine Siskin and White-winged Crossbill perch on my camera lens within the past week. They key was
patience and avoiding excessive noise and sudden movements. White-winged Crossbills are skittish if they are approached
too quickly, but once they were used to my presence, I was able to move about slowly and quietly without drawing a reaction,
even at close range.
I don't know if I just got lucky or if this exercise will prove to be repeatable. There's only one way to find out...
Toward the end of the session I began to concentrate on photographing the crossbills with some elements of the environment,
instead of just going for tight portraits. The results of this effort are near the bottom of this page.
Click on any of the pictures below to view a larger image.