“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” Rainer Maria Rilke
While we enjoy our regular winter feathered visitors to our feeders, it’s always a treat when a handsome stranger makes an appearance. That was the case last week. I walked out onto the deck to refill the feeders. I was a step or two away and was taken by surprise by the brilliant red of a bird staring at me. Since male House Finches, with their bright red crown, throat, and breast are regular visitors to the feeder, at first glance I thought that was what I was seeing, but they usually scatter at the first crack as the deck door opens. As soon as I saw that long, curved, crossed beak, I knew this was no House Finch. He seemed as curious of me, as I of him, as I stood only a few feet away. He finally flew. I filled the feeders and stepped back in the house eagerly hoping he would quickly return. To my delight, he did.
In the 20 years, we’ve lived here, this was our first crossbill to visit. I immediately consulted the Birds of Ohio book to learn more about this mysterious stranger. The bird book shows them to be rare winter visitors to Ohio. The White-winged, of which this male is by the white wing bars, are even scarcer than the similar species of Red Crossbill, although apparently a few of each species are seen in Ohio most winters. An interesting note the guide mentioned was that these birds are quite tame and approachable. This was indeed the experience I had.
My husband, always eager to please, removed the screen from the kitchen window over the sink so I could get an unimpeded shot. The bird was not shy about pushing his way up to the feeders and deftly cracked sunflower seed after sunflower seed. After feeding for a while he flew up into a nearby tree where he perched for a while, and then was gone. The next day, I glanced at the feeder off and on all day, hoping for his return, but he must have moved on. While I certainly had more productive things I could of and should have been doing during his visit, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Chances are, it may be another 20 years before one visits our feeders again.