Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

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  Life Bird Pine Grosbeak!

Published: November 26, 2018
Tags: Life List Happenings, pine grosbeak

As I prepared to head out birding yesterday morning, I received word that a Pine Grosbeak had been found at a park in the Rochester area.  I've longed to see this bird for several years now and I didn't think twice - I just went for it!

I had never been to this park before and was a little nervous about how difficult it might be to find this one bird in a whole lot of area.  As I drove the hour and a half drive, I told myself  to just enjoy the day, enjoy the birds, and there will be other opportunities another time if I dip.  And it's true; I've learned that you get some, you lose some - but new opportunities are always waiting around the corner...

And, as it turned out, my fears were for nothing.  Shortly after I arrived to the GPS coordinates that the finder of the bird, Greg Lawrence, sent me, I heard the chirps and cheeps of robins coming from across a little dip in the woods.  I moved up to that spot and scanned the fruit-laden berry trees and bushes. I quickly came upon this amazing life bird moving around in the tree picking, stretching, and eating the berries!  I enjoyed her for several seconds before reaching for my camera.  Wouldn't you know she flew off as I did that!  Ugh!  How do they KNOW?!!!

I noticed a group of birders on the other side of this dip and made my way over to them, seeing several faces I recognized.  They all had eyes on her and I got more looks as she quietly rested deep within the same tree I had been looking at from the other side.  A few minutes later, she flew off, not to be re-found again for hours.  Talk was, the presumed female was more likely to be a young male by the depth of its coloring.

Pine Grosbeaks are robin-sized finches that hail from the upper ranges of Canada, Alaska, and the northern most parts of the US.  The males are mostly a beautiful pink-red in color while females are golden yellow on their heads and breast.  Both sexes have dark gray wings with wing bars.  In years like this one, they "irrupt" to more southern regions in search of food due to poor seed crops up north.  This year is called a "flight year" with many winter finches predicted to drop south.  This could be very lucky for us in Western New York and I hope many more sightings of Pine Grosbeaks are to come!

After the grosbeak flew off, I spent a very pleasant couple of hours birding the park with Mike Gullo, a Rochester birder and resident.  What a beautiful park this is and if I lived closer, I'm certain I'd be there often!

When I got back to my car, I paused to eat something and rest my feet for a bit.  I felt surprisingly invigorated after that - enough to make another attempt at seeing this fascinating life bird; I really hadn't wanted to leave without another look at him.  And, as luck would have it, within the hour, Jay McGowan, birder extraordinaire from Cornell, showed up and re-found the bird.  This time, the looks I got were much better and I had a really nice experience watching it eat berries, preen, and - well, just sit.  It was fabulous.  Jay recorded its flight sounds as it flew from tree to tree hoping to add more sound clips of this species to the Macauley Library at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology.

Lighting was dismal this day and my photos are a bit grainy, but what I was able to capture of this wonderful life bird are below...

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My first photo of the Pine Grosbeak as it sat within the berry tree.

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Photo of it eating berries...

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Another photo of it eating berries...

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Just another angle, haha!

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Here's something a tiny bit different!

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A bit of a stretch for a berry

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Just before he left, he flew to the top of a tree nearby.

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