Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Yellow Grosbeak at Concan, 2/19/19

A couple of weeks ago, a photo of a Yellow Grosbeak taken at a private residence near Concan, surfaced on one of the Facebook Texas birding groups.  Yellow Grosbeak is a very rare summer visitor from Mexico to Southeast Arizona and New Mexico and there are no accepted Texas records.  The fact that the bird had atypically first been seen in late January and that the residence owner was not allowing visitation had caused me to lose interest in seeing it.  Problems with provenance and access was causing a "sour grapes" reaction on my part.

But the very nice residence owner soon realized that most birders were not as bad as he had heard.  He let a few visit to see the bird and was so taken by their passion and joy in seeing his Yellow Grosbeak, that he opened his house up to a controlled visitation by the birding public.  Another very kind gentleman in Concan took on the responsibility of taking a small number of reservations each day, accompanying the birders to the secret location and then overseeing their visit.  Word got out slowly about how to make contact and reservations and eventually I landed a spot on Feb 6.  Mary Gustafson and I along with a half dozen other birders waited over five hours for the Yellow Grosbeak in the nice owner's living room without success. We enjoyed his active feeding station with lots of goldfinches and Pine Siskins and even a Red-breasted Nuthatch but could not stay forever.  So Mary and I left at 4pm and on our way home got word the grosbeak showed up an hour later.  Arg!!!!

After this failed attempt I had pretty much given up hopes of seeing this potential first state record.  But Mary was more persistent and secured us another reservation for the 19th.  We met the other birders at a nearby restaurant as before and caravaned over to the secret spot.  No sooner than we had arrived but the kind owner burst through the door was excitedly motioning for us to come into the house.  Upon entry we knew why.  There was the Yellow Grosbeak feeding in his back yard!

When this bird comes up before the Texas Bird Records Committee, provenance will be the deciding factor.  Apparently Yellow Grosbeaks are occasionally kept in captivity.  The fact this bird was first seen is in late January is in contrast to most of the Arizona and New Mexico records which span from spring to fall.  There is a previous winter record from New Mexico.  However, Howell and Russell in Rare Birds of North America bring up that many of the Streak-backed Oriole Records in the US occur during winter and Yellow Grosbeak with a similar range in Mexico and similar migration period could easily wander at the same time of year.  I am still contemplating my vote.  Lots more study to do I'm sure.

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