Date: 11/5/17 10:07 am From: Chuck & Jaye Otte <otte2...> Subject: The Irony of Crossbills
Jaye and I spent some time walking yet another location with pines around Milford Lake today and saw exactly zero crossbills. I've continued paying close attention to the trees for the presence or absence of pine cones and was again greeted by trees with very few pine cones. I always suggest to beginning birders that to find birds you have to follow the food.
The widespread appearance of Red Crossbills, over the past month, has caused a lot of excitement for some and frustration to others. The irony in this, to me, is that we as a birding community are getting all excited on a species that is highly dependent on a plant community that isn't even native to Kansas. That's right, Kansas is the only state in the Union that has NO native pine trees.
Back to follow the food - Pines generally take 2 years to produce mature pine cones (rarely three years). Therefore the pine cones that I'm NOT seeing would have come from flowers that bloomed in the spring of 2016. I did notice a fair number of immature cones on some of the trees. I suspect that, at least in this local area, some weather event in the spring of 2016 caused flowers to not successfully be pollinated. (Now a bunch of you are running to Google "pine flowers".) Pollination/blooming failure is often caused by untimely freezes but can also be caused by drought and/or heat stress.
I spent a little bit of time this weekend putting together a map showing where in Kansas Red Crossbills have been reported this fall and on what date they were first reported. This map is at: http://ksbirds.org/kos/Crossbills17_18.htm
When you look at this map you'll see an area of the Flint Hills and north central Kansas that is devoid of reports as well as the Red Hills region and north and northwest Kansas. These could simply be devoid due to lack of coverage, but I know a lot of folks in the Manhattan/Junction City area that have been studiously looking!
This irruption is being noted in other states as well and I'm quite certain that other counties will be added to this map before it's all said and done.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Chuck & Jaye Otte mailto:<otte2...> 613 Tamerisk Junction City Kansas USA 66441 785-238-8800