Due to low conifer and hardwood tree seed supplies in eastern Canada, it has been predicted that this year could be a good one for Evening Grosbeaks to visit Pennsylvania. Evening Grosbeak is a species I have been missing on my PA list. They are also the ABA Bird of the Year so I knew that as soon as a chaseable report came in of a bird within reasonable driving distance, I would go for it.
Last weekend Corey Husic spotted a female grosbeak in his yard in Monroe County during a Big Sit, which was the first individual reported in PA this fall. I was shocked to hear about the sighting, considering that it was just mid-October! I expected that reports wouldn’t surface until winter. Yesterday afternoon, while Anna Fasoli and I were out birding, I checked my email on my iPhone and was shocked to see that Bob Snyder had reported an Evening Grosbeak at his backyard bird-feeders in Howard, PA – right outside Bald Eagle State Park, in Centre County! I couldn’t believe it – the second reported grosbeak of the year in PA and it was in Centre County, the county I live in and love to see new species in more than any other. I immediately texted Bob to get more details, but knew it was too late in the day to try for it before dark. I would have to wait until morning, but would the bird still be there? They are so nomadic, and it was just the one bird….I was worried.
First thing this morning Anna Fasoli, Josh Lefever, and I raced out to Bob’s house in Howard. On the way there, I got a text from Bob saying the grosbeak made a visit! Yes!! Things were looking great – the bird had stayed the night and was still coming in to the feeders. A few minutes later, we arrived at Bob’s house. Joe Verica had gotten there just ahead of us. Pine Siskins were all over the place (at least 30 individuals) but we couldn’t find the grosbeak. After waiting for awhile, scanning the trees and keeping a close eye on the feeder, I spotted a flash of yellow, gray, and white fly in towards the feeder but land out of view. I knew it had to be the grosbeak. Nothing else was that color combination and that big. Sure enough, a few seconds later the bird hopped onto the tube feeder and into plain view for all of us to see. We all got great looks in my spotting scope and then Anna and I moved in a little closer for some photos. We were worried about scaring the bird so we didn’t get too close, but we did manage to get a few nice shots despite the distance and poor lighting. Later in the day, another grosbeak report came in on the eBird Rare Bird Alerts for PA of two flyover grosbeaks in Montgomery County, making a total of 4 so far in the state. Hopefully these are the first of many to show up throughout PA and the rest of the NE this winter. Thanks to Bob Snyder for getting the word out about the beautiful female Evening Grosbeak at his feeders and allowing birders to come and see it! I hope it sticks around for at least a few more days so others are able to see it.