There are wind chimes in the trees but no houses or people here where I walk near the end of a long, dry ridge. I look in the trees for the chimes and find them. They flutter at the tips of branches. Irregular, sharp, and light, I begin to hear gyp gyp . . . gyp . . . gyp, and those calls mix with the chaffing of wings against needles and scraping of toes against bark. I have mistaken bird sounds for chimes.
A cone of a Douglas fir is tossed to the ground, where it crunches against the wiry, dry grasses. I get my binoculars from my pack.
The birds are Red Crossbills at work harvesting seeds from the cones of a Douglas fir. The crossbills maneuver at the tips of branches—there is a flash of wing and a body flips. They slip upside down, sideways, head twisting at a cone as their bodies bob on the thinnest branches. The birds poke and pull seeds. When a cone comes loose, the crossbill tosses it away.
The flock flies—lifting nearly all at once—as I watch. Hurried gyp gyp gyp from different quarters of the tree. There is a flash of buff bellies, glints of red, orange, and yellowish green against the sun as they wheel and fly away. It’s quiet now, except the wind—the chimes have flown.