Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Pine Grosbeak Shetland

After what has been a quiet winter for rarities a not wholly unexpected Pine Grosbeak was found at Collafirth on mainland Shetland on the 29th January 2012 and constitutes perhaps the best bird of Winter 2012/13 to date. The bird, a first winter male, has been showing well close to the pier at Collafirth where it has been feeding on conifers. This is the 12th British record of the species with only seven records since 1950, the most recent being from 8th to 10th November 2004 at Easington in Yorkshire. Records are from March, May, October and November with four of the records from the latter month. The distribution of records shows and east coast bias with two records each from Shetland, Yorkshire and Kent.

Pine Grosbeak - Phil Woollen

Pine Grosbeak , Collafirth, Shetland - 
Photo from Phil Woollen's excellent 'A Wirral Birders Blog'

The Pine Grosbeak is distributed across the boreal areas of Northern Europe, Northern Russia, Alaska, Canada and North America where the small amount of racial variation involves size and the intensity of colour in the adult males. Across this extensive range the species is a fairly common bird found in confer, Alder and Birch forest where it feeds on a range of berries, seeds and in the summer, insects. The Pine Grosbeak is a sedentary or patially migratory species prone to erratic eruptive movements to the south of its range. These movements are driven, in a similar manner to Waxwing, by a failure in the winter food supply with, in some winters, most of the population remaining close to the breeding grounds and in others entire populations may move hundreds of kilometres south from the typical wintering grounds. The autumn of 2012 experienced such a movement with many hundreds of birds being seen in Scandinavia from August through November, with this large movement hopes were high for a long awaited British record although many hoped for a mainland bird.