Most of them were White-winged Crossbills. Red Crossbills were present in much smaller numbers. They are recognizable by their brick-red color with white only on their undertail coverts. The color on the White-winged Crossbills is more purple, as if dipped in red wine, very similar to the Purple Finch's. However it was easy to mistake one for the other if you just saw them from the front and didn't see their wings. They are messy eaters; many of them were feeding on the ground picking up dropped seeds. The "cross bills" refers to the peculiar shape of their bills which are well suited for wedging open the thick cone scales to extract the seeds.
The following photos all show White-winged Crossbills, the flashy males as well as the more subtly colored olive and gray females. The paler pinkish birds are immature males.
I got only a few photos of the Red Crossbills, all males.
The crossbills are included in this year's report on the winter finch irruption. For a very informative updated report see Tim Schreckengost's post on Thermal Birding.
-- and thank you for visiting my blog. I am also thankful for all the wonderful birds I was able to see this year. I hope everyone will participate in their area's Christmas Bird Count. We owe it to the birds!