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Western Evening Grosbeak in Southern California

Lilian Zech
3 (May-June)
From Field and Study
Online Text:

Western Evening Grosbeak in Southern California

On the afternoon of November 2, 1919, during a very cold spell following a storm with much snow in the mountains nearby, I was walking through Smiley Heights Park in Redlands, when the tinkling notes of a chickadee drew my attention to a small cedar or cypress directly at the side of the road. To my astonishment it looked like an animated Christmas tree, for there were not only a half dozen Mountain Chickadees (Penthestes gambeli baileyae) clinging to the twigs and fluttering in the branches, but as many Red-breasted Nuthatches (Bitta canadensis) running on the trunk of it and the neighboring tree, while ornamenting the outer branchlets were at least a dozen Western Evening Grosbeaks (Hesperiphona vesperta montana), male and female.

I had never before seen them in southern California and could not believe my eyes at first, but the size and beak were right, and the coloring, particularly that of the males, was unmistakable, for I had become very familiar with them in Oregon. They were industriously peeling away the hard outer shell of the cedar nuts and feasting upon the seeds within. The afternoons of the two following days, November 3 and 4, I went again at the same hour and found both times a pair of the grosbeaks, a male and a female, in the same tree, eating the seeds as before. They seemed entirely unafraid and let me stand for an hour both days directly beneath them not ten feet away. The second day they finally flew away toward the west, but on the third day they were still eating seeds when I left. I was prevented from going again before a week passed and then could find no trace of them and have never seen them since, even though colder weather followed at Thanksgiving.

Lilian Zech

Redlands, California, February 29, 1920

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