Cone Crop & Winter Birding

Cone Crop & Winter Birding

Dave Govatski of northern New Hampshire sent along this cone crop update.

By Phil Brown

Common Redpoll by Phil Brown

The red, white and black spruce cone crop for the upcoming winter finch forecast and rated it as excellent in Northern New Hampshire and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Spruce cone seeds are the primary food supply for red and white-winged crossbills that periodically irrupt into our state in winter. Both crossbills are already being seen in small numbers in northern NH and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. It has been an excellent year for crab apples, mountain ash berries, beaked hazelnut, beech and a number of berry producing shrubs. There’s a good cone crop for Norway spruce, hemlock and larch while the pine cone crop was poor. White birch catkins were only fair and this is one of the primary seed sources for redpolls. The heart-leaf birch which is found above 3,000 feet in elevation in our New England mountains has an excellent catkin crop.

Reporters from different regions send in their reports to Ron Pittaway of Ontario who consolidates the findings and comes out with an anxiously awaited winter finch forecast around mid-September each year. Irruptive species like crossbills, pine grosbeaks and redpolls generally travel no further than where they can find a good food supply. If there is plenty of food in Canada we may only get a small number of irruptive species. Some years we have to wait until the winter finches eat their way south from Canada while in some years we see them in good numbers by October.