Happy 1-year grosbeak quintet anniversary to me.
May 31, 2021 was unforgettable: my first (and possibly only) time of seeing five different grosbeaks on the same day. And though my featured photo above shows five Evening Grosbeaks, that’s not the quintet I’m referring to.
No, May 31, 2021 held encounters with 5 different species of grosbeaks.
Up until a few days prior, I wasn’t even aware of the possibility of that ever happening in Colorado. We are fortunate to regularly observe Black-headed and Blue Grosbeaks in the summer, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks occasionally during migration, and Evening Grosbeaks whenever their need to roam widely for food arises, but I had never seen all four species in a single day (Pine Grosbeaks also occur in our state, but are harder to come across). Whereas one could make a conscious effort to find them in their respective habitat, it hadn’t crossed my mind to try to find as many grosbeaks in a day as possible.
Nor did I set out to do so on that particular May date one year ago. Until that last week of the month, I had been ignorant of the existence of yet another grosbeak species—Yellow Grosbeaks. Typically at home in Mexico, occasional vagrants visit Arizona or, more seldom, other southern US states, and that spring, one had made an excursion into Colorado, where it was spotted in someone’s “back yard.”
News of rare avian sightings spread quickly via social media nowadays, and when I kept noticing online alerts about the bird’s continued presence, I couldn’t ignore them. I “chase” rare species only occasionally and am mindful of the distances and difficulties involved in trying to find them. But as I might never have another occasion to see this bird in Colorado (or elsewhere), I made the relatively straightforward 80-mile one-way trip to Huerfano County south of Colorado Springs, where the incredibly generous and welcoming owner of a beautiful property in a natural setting welcomed hundreds of birders from across Colorado and even some other states over the course of the grosbeak’s presence, which lasted for nearly a week.
The proprietor welcomes birds by offering a wide array of feeders filled with seeds, suet, fruit, and nectar, and so it happened on that fateful day that I was able not only to add the resplendent Yellow Grosbeak to my life list, but also to observe a Black-headed and a Blue Grosbeak partake of the well-stocked buffet. After returning home, as I was smilingly entering my checklist on eBird at my desk, there was much activity at the feeders outside the window. Imagine my widening smile when a Rose-breasted Grosbeak’s appearance was followed by that of several Evening Grosbeaks, all stopping by for a sunflower seed snack that very evening, making this already special day even more memorable by gifting me my first-ever grosbeak quintet.
The star performer: Yellow Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysopeplus)/Gelbkopf-Kernknacker
Another thank-you, Gib and family, for being such gracious and generous hosts to birds and birders alike.