Sunday, July 5, 2009

Evening Grosbeaks

One of the tasks that results from a trip is the processing of photos. I just got back from a nine day whirlwind expedition up through the lower peninsula of Michigan, into the Upper Peninsula, along Lake Superior, down through Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Michigan, and across northern Illinois and Indiana. Whew! And probably have 300-400 keeper pics out of maybe 1,500 taken.

The trip was pretty regimented, with specific places to see and things to look for. Chief among them were birds, and we did well with boreal breeders. Saw nearly all of the possible nesting warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Lincoln's Sparrow, and many more. But it was a special treat to run across some of those jumbo black, white, and golden seed-crackers, the Evening Grosbeak. We used to get them regularly in the winter in Ohio, but they have become quite the rarity these days.

Just north of Grayling, Michigan, is a beautiful area called Hartwick Pines State Park. It features an outstanding mixed forest that includes some monster White Pines, Pinus strobus. Of great interest to birders are Evening Grosbeaks, which breed in the park and make constant visits to the bird feeders right outside the visitor's center. Males, such as the one above, are striking animals. I especially like their sinuous yellow eyebrow, which resembles part of a flame paint job that Jesse James would add to one of his custom choppers.

Impossible to miss is the giant schnoz on these guys. The scientific epithet of Evening Grosbeak is Coccothraustes, which essentially means "kernel crusher". And crush the kernels they can, and do so prodigiously. If you are fortunate enough to have a pack of grosbeaks descend on your feeding station, be prepared for some hefty sunflower bills. They'll go through a ton of seed.
We also ran into grosbeaks on the Upper Peninsula, in the picturesque Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I'll put up some photos of this coastal reserve later, taken from a boat in Lake Superior. The rock formations along the shoreline are as awe-inspiring as the brds in the forest.


dAwN said...

I haven't see Evening Grosbeaks in a while..My Parents used to get them at their feeders in Ct. but haven't had them in a few years.
Beautiful seed crunchin birds..

Looks like you had a great trip!
You should join our group.
we have a new website. Birders who Blog,Tweet and Chirp.

Dave Lewis said...

Wow, that would be a lifer for us! One of these days...
Off subject, is it true about the govenors new budget wiping out the ODNR and the future funding for Ohio's nature preserves?
It's time for Ohio birders to get better organized to fight this!

Sunny said...

Hello, I am trying to get help to identify what appears to be a family of Sharp Shinned Hawks on my property. This morning I was able to get some fairly good images of them after 3 years of hit and miss, and I have a Masters in photography!( In portitriture, not photograghing birds..there IS a HUGE differance I am learning and my hat is off to all you) just never seem to be watching when they are in the yard.I am in Southwestern Ohio on an acre in the city with woods,creek tall trees etc adjacent to 4 neighbors with acres each some woodes some open..I can certainaly understand why thry would like it here!
Is it common to see them in the city limits though? Because even though this land is as it is, we are still in a city. Also, what is their main diet? Is there anything I can do to help feed them to help encourage them to stay around..we have mice after our cat died...will they help with that population? Are they a threat with to the neigherbors annoying dogs who never stop barking but only weigh about two pounds? Could they be? Just kidding..We have very large dogs..Mastiffs and do not want the dogs to bother the hawks either..I know a whole lot a once but I have never been in this situation before so any help would be great, thanks!

Jim McCormac said...

Hi all and glad you like the grosbeaks! And Dave, the entire DNR wouldn't be wiped out, but the the budget does zero out the Division of Natural Areas, which own and manages all of our state nature preserves. Unless something changes, that Division will disappear in a year.

Sunny, your birds are almost certainly Cooper's Hawks. They have become quite common in urban/suburbia. They'll do no harm, except to the unlucky songbirds that form the bulk of their diet. The pooches will be fine.


britney said...

nice birds...

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