Sunday, October 18, 2009

Winter Finch Forecast

Bohemian Waxwings
Lincoln, NH  2/20/09
This was posted to the New York State Birds List by Matt Young.  It provides a nice overview of what boreal birds you might expect to find in the Northeast this coming winter.
Hello all,

As usual here's a follow-up post about the potential for a winter finch
invasion in NY and points north and south.
However, this is an abbreviated finch forecast since I do not expect it to
be big winter, and Ron Pittaway already
covered much of what will likely take place.

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: I do expect there to be scattered White-winged
Crossbills in the northeast given the good red spruce crop in northern NY and very good spruce crop on all spruces in NH and Maine. Some very isolated
breeding could take place in NE Jan-April.

RED CROSSBILL: Birds continue to be reported in small numbers in NH and as
usual a few are around in typical locations of Madison and Chenango counties of central NY. The hemlock and red spruce crop is good in northern NY,
and other spruces (i.e. black and white) and white pine crops are very good
in NH and Maine. I would not be surprised if crossbills become a bit more common in the northeast as we head in February-April. Additionally, birds
could invade central NY state forests again like last year come March-April
since the red pine crop is good. Types 1 are regular in "sprucy" state forest of NY, and types 3 and 10's are the next most common in recent years. Type 2
and 4 also occur in the state. All conifers can be utilized by all types to
a degree with type 2 more easily utilizing red pine and type 3 more easily utilizing hemlock. All types can utilize various spruces, and white pine to a lesser

COMMON REDPOLL: If you follow the biennial pattern of redpolls, this year
would be a year to expect them. However, we had a fairly large invasion in 07-08 and a small invasion in 08-09. The cone crops have been a bit more variable
the past two years, and so invasions have been a mixed bag. I would expect
a few redpolls in NY and northeast come January-February, but I do not expect a major invasion. Look for them on alder and birches --these trees are
producing fair and variable crops in NY and northeast this year.

PINE SISKIN: After last year's enormous eastern invasion (best since 89-90
like WW Crossbill), I do not expect a major invasion. However, there's always a migratory pulse of Pine Siskins through NY and the Northeast every year (this
has already been noted with some recent reports), so I expect some birds to
move through from October-November. Additionally, given the good spruce crop, some nesting will also likely take place in northern NY to Maine.

EVENING GROSBEAK; This once annual invader is more of a biennial invader
these days. Like the redpolls, if you follow this biennial pattern, this would be the year to be expect some. However, Evening Grosbeaks have been in
decline (likely b/c of a lack of spruce budworm outbreaks) for 20 years.
There have been some very subtle signs that Evening Grosbeak populations have stabilized or are on a slight increase (again, spruce budworm has been on the
increase the past few years and we're due for a large outbreak). I expect
them at "usual" high elevation areas of northern NY and the northeast with a few making it to central NY and perhaps northern PA. This bird loves tree seed
crops (box-elder, ash, maple, cherry). These crops are pretty good in NY
this year. However, this bird loves bird feeders at "usual" high elevation locations.

PINE GROSBEAK: Two years ago was a large invasion, and last year, like
with redpolls, there was a small "echo flight" into the northeast and NY. I do not expect many in the state this year. The mountain ash and berry crop is good to
the north so don't expect many around.

PURPLE FINCHES: This bird likes tree seeds as well, but populations tend to
be highest in northeastern winters in years of good spruce crops. Expect a slightly higher than normal winter numbers given the better than average
spruce cone crop.

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES: Likely common in Northeast and points northward,
but do not expect a lot to the south. This is a theme, not a lot of winter finches will be found south of northern NY and boreal regions of the
northeast this year except for maybe a few Purple Finches, siskins and Type
1 Red Crossbills in typical higher elevations of the Appalachians.

BOHEMIAN WAXWING: It's almost to the point it's hard to consider this
species an "irruptive". It is now annual in the northeast and NY, however, there are usually larger biennial irruptions. This is an expected "larger biennial (every
other year) irruption year. The mountain ash and berry crop is good, so
expect birds in the usual areas of northern NY into northern reaches of the northeast. A few could invade central NY come February-March if crops to the north
are depleted enough.

Chickadees often irrupt in years with redpolls, but I do not expect a major
invasion. Blue Jays are also around in moderate numbers so far.

Owls and hawks: There could be an "echo-flight" of Snowy and Boreal Owls
this year. Were over due for a large Roughy invasion.

Again, overall, expect few finches until at least Jan-Feb. The theme is,
not a lot of winter finches will be found south of northern NY and boreal regions of the northeast this year except for maybe a few Purple Finches, siskins and Type
1 Red Crossbills in typical higher elevations of the Appalachians. Even in
boreal regions of the NY and the northeast, I do not expect large concentrations except in perhaps areas of NH were there's very good cone crops on nearly all
species. After the last two years, we were due for a below average finch
winter in the northeast!

Sorry for any typos.
Matt Young

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