Crossbills

Arlene has been seeing Massbird reports of white-winged crossbills at Salisbury recently. On our way north yesterday we stopped at the Salisbury state park and looked around the pines. Nothing there, but a guy who was walking down the road told us he had seen them twenty minutes earlier (that’s the way it always is with birding as well as fishing, “you should have seen it yesterday!”) Then a flock of twenty small birds flew over and he said, “There they go!” They didn’t settle in the trees near us, though, but went on towards the other side of the camping area. When we were at Lake Sebago State Park a couple of months ago Arlene said she thought she had never seen so many picnic tables in one place. The camping area at Salisbury had even more! There are hundreds of camping spots, each with a picnic table. This time of year, with nobody camping, you can see them all. With four wheel drive, we drove down the icy unplowed road between campsites in the general direction the birds had gone, not really expecting to find them. But Arlene spotted some movement in a tree as we passed, and it was a flock of crossbills. They flew a little farther away, we doubled back between a different bunch of campsites, and got a reasonably good look.

We continued along the New Hampshire coast, just because once we’re at Salisbury it’s not too much slower along the coast, and much more interesting than the interstate. We stopped for lunch at Robert’s in Kittery, then at the Crate and Barrel outlet, then got back on the Maine Turnpike as far as Scarborough. There’s a big outdoor outfitter store that opened just off the exit there within the past year that we hadn’t ever been to, and I wanted to see how it compared with L.L. Bean and Kittery Trading Post. This one is Cabela’s, and it feels immense. It doesn’t seem to have as much clothing as L.L Bean, but is very strong on hunting and fishing, especially hunting (which is not really going to be an attraction for us.) I think both Bean’s and KTP are better for general outdoor activities like canoeing, snowshoeing, and hiking. Although Cabela’s had a lot of marine stuff, too, a big display of electronic fish finders and a display of small electric motors for small boats and canoes. We might be back there in the spring to get a motor for our canoe or rowboat. The fly tying supplies are amazing; I’m going to want to go back in the late winter, when I start thinking about fishing. In particular, they have a selection of top-quality dry fly hackle in small quantities. The least expensive way to get that stuff is to buy a whole rooster neck, but that’s well over $100. I’d rather buy 1/100 as much material for $10. Even though it’s much more per feather, I’m not going to need more than that at a time. The Cabela’s store is one immense room, not at all interesting as an architectural space (Bean’s and KTP both are subdivided and on multiple floors, so more interesting in that sense) but filled with displays — mounted animals, dioramas, electronic shooting galleries, and an aquarium with big trout, bass, and pickerel swimming around (and black crappies, a panfish species I’ve seen pictures of but never seen for real before.) If you’re driving through Maine with kids, it would be a good place to stop just to look at the fish and animal displays.

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