Grosbeaks are seed-eating, colorful passerines with over-sized beaks. The USA has several species but I never thought I’d have the opportunity to see/photograph a YELLOW GROSBEAK. Only a handful of “YG”’s have been documented in Arizona and New Mexico since 1995. Never in Texas. But a friendly (anonymous) homeowner in Concan, Texas had alerted birding friends in early January that a large, bright yellow, finch-like bird was frequenting her feeder. It has been a consistent visitor for almost three months and I simply could not resist the chase.
A road-sign reminded me that THIS bird could be an escapee rather than wild but most feel that the Texas Birding Authorities will rule in listers’ favor. Hundreds of birders who have trekked to this remote southernmost part of Texas Hill Country will be pretty upset if this bird doesn’t count. Obviously, I am confident or I wouldn’t have spent three days traveling back and forth to Concan!
Our local guide had instructed what turned out to be twelve (12) of us…from all over the country…to meet at Neal’s Lodge where we would consolidate our vehicles and caravan to the secret spot. While we hoped this bird would turn up as soon as we arrived…it just doesn’t work that way. We patiently waited inside the house and watched the numerous feeders outside in complete silence.
An hour passed and short conversations started but quickly stopped as we desperately tried to turn a goldfinch into a Yellow Grosbeak. Another hour passed and I actually spoke to the guy I had been rubbing elbows and hips with for two hours. A wildlife biologist from Charlotte, he had a USA life-list over 800. And he hadn’t even been to Hawaii. I was humbled. These were serious birders.
Thirty more minutes passed and I (proudly) noticed that I was literally the last one standing, as the others had taken seats in our generous hosts’ dining room chairs. I wondered if this was a minor endurance triumph related to years of riding NYC subways. Or perhaps standing for hours on boats whale-watching in the Bay of Fundy had given me an edge. Or was it the Bikram yoga? No, I countered to myself. This wasn’t a competition. I was simply polite, stupid or stubborn. Suddenly my peaceful daydream debate was shattered by several simultaneous exclamations: “That’s it”, “on the feeder”!!
High-fives, fist-pumps, hugs and sighs of relief & elation followed. Our hosts and guide smiled. A bunch of strangers united by a yellow bird.