The evening grosbeaks have shown up on this wintery morning. A flock of three or four, all females, sat in the top of the dead spruce for about half an hour before approaching the feeder. While they were in the spruce top, they appeared to be eating something from the tips of the dead branches. Lichens maybe? Evening grosbeaks are birds of the boreal spruce forest, so our little woods probably seems like home to them.
The first time I saw evening grosbeaks was at my grandparents' lake home about fifty miles south of here. I was about nine years old at the time, and had been reading and memorizing the copy of Birds of North America that my other grandma had given me in Florida. The bird feeder was in front of a large picture window overlooking the frozen lake. I had spent many hours watching the feeder, seeing chickadees, nuthatches, and goldfinches. But on that day, suddenly a large flock of black, white and yellow birds descended, as evening grosbeaks do, dropping like leaves from the trees above. Without a moment's hesitation I cried out "Look! Evening grosbeaks!" I had such a definite picture in my young mind, from studying the bird book, that I instantly recognized them.
It is rare to see such large flocks these days, and so far south. Some years we have gone a whole winter with only seeing one or two, or none at all.