Thursday, January 3, 2013

My, what a huge 'beak you are!

There's been a bit of a stir in the uplands of Mohican.  We have visitors from the Great North, the likes of which we have not seen for quite a few years.  The Evening Grosbeaks, Coccothraustes vespertinus have returned in good number again- for the first time since 2008.

And these eye-blinding photos, provided by uber photographer Dane Adams are almost better than seeing them in person!   These 'beaks are winter birds and they usually arrive in a blowing snow, or sleet or...worse.  But if the weather cooperates enough to get to them, they are hard to miss. They're the size of a black-bird, with the bill of cardinal and all colored-up like a summer goldfinch!

Evening Grosbeak, photo by Dane Adams
Evening Grosbeaks are a northern bird, well known for their winter visits to the lower 48. Perhaps, they enjoy a little break from the Canadian cold. It was predicted early on, this year would be a good for seeing winter finch and grosbeak irruptions into Ohio.  Many years past years it was not unusual for folks in New York, Pennsylvania and even some areas of Ohio to see the birds.  However, in recent years their appearances have dramatically declined.

Evening Grosbeak, Photo by Dane Adams
These gorgeous gluttons are known for cleaning out bird seed in record time!  They prefer flat surfaces for feeding, like a platform/tray feeder, or a picnic table or deck.  The are not as likely to come into traditional feeders with a covered roof.

You can't blame them for wanting to be out in the open, after all- they are quite glamorous! 
Grosbeak gathering, photo by Dane Adams

If you come to Mohican State Forest in Ashland County, Ohio in hopes of seeing the birds- let me give you a few tips.  Look for gatherings in the tree tops.  Evening grosbeaks like to T-up in the trees between feedings and they are pretty conspicuous, too!

Mohican map to Grosbeak treasure.

 You can download a map to the Mohican State Forest right here.  Park nearby in the Gorge Overlook parking lot; this is also a good spot for Red and White-winged Crossbills!

You will hike from the parking lot to the west, it is less than a 1/2 mile.  The tall pines along the road provide some of the best scenery and birding in Ohio. The optimum time of day is between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m., when this particular flock is known to feed. Watch all along the ornamental shrubs and crab apple trees.  I have seen the birds directly above me next to the road.

Evening Grosbeak (EVGR), Dane Adams
It is obvious why everyone has gone ga-ga over these birds.  The plumage on the males is nearly blinding!  The females are more subdued, but still a very good looking bird.

Audubon Christmas Birds Counts have noted these 'beak sightings are in great decline.  The numbers I find run around 90-91 percent reduction!  This could be a shocking warning to us that something is going on.  Are they irrupting into our territory less, or have their numbers totally plummeted?  These are questions for inquiring minds (but I doubt you'll read it in the Inquirer.

 If you are interested in the trends- go here for a fabulous study by BirdSource created by Audubon and Cornell University.  I think you will find the maps most entertaining, and maybe it does not reflect a true decline in EVGRs.  It might mean there has been a change in their territories and there are just fewer here. Either way, we need to be protective of  the visitors we currently have.

Again, a special thanks goes out to Dane Adams, for allowing us to enjoy these photos.  They are almost as thrilling as seeing the actual birds!


  1. Beautiful Birds for sure! Haven't seen any in a while. Happy New Year Cheryl! May your year be filled with Love, Laughter, good health and lots of nature!

  2. Thanks Dawn-

    Hope you and Jeff and a great year as well. These boys were stunners and might look as good as a parrot on one's shoulder!

    Your friend in pirate birding, Cheryl (ARRgh.)