Pine Grosbeaks arrived back in the Crane Lake area last Saturday, the 24th. I’d been listening for them as they usually come back into town around the 23rd of October. Last Saturday morning was a clear sunny day and completely calm, so it wasn’t hard to hear the unmistakable chirrpy warble of the Pine Grosbeak.
The last few years, I have been casually keeping track of the dates that Pine Grosbeak come and go from Crane Lake, and it’s almost as if you could set your clock, or your calendar, by their movement. Looking back at my records, they arrive in the area in the Fall around October 23rd, and then leave in the Spring about March 15th. According to the MOU (MN Ornithologists Union) website, the Fall arrival date in the north is October 19th and in the south it is November 10th. The Spring departure date is April 5th for the north and March 10th for the south.
Usually when the Pine Grosbeaks first get back from their breeding grounds in Canada, they stay up in the trees and forage for their natural foods before coming in to bird feeders. Then once they find the bounty of the sunflower feeder they come in droves.
We are lucky here in northern Minnesota, as we can depend on the Pine Grosbeaks to grace our landscapes with their presence in the bleak winter months. In the summer this bird occurs in Canada, Alaska and in the mountainous western states of the US. Pine Grosbeaks also reside in the Old World from eastern Asia to Scandinavia. They are considered a permanent resident in most of their range and don’t migrate. The Pine Grosbeaks that do migrate in North America are from a population that breeds up by Hudson Bay. Those birds head south to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and upper Michigan in the winter. It’s interesting to note that in other parts of the US, like in New England, they will get some Pine Grosbeaks moving south, but only in irruptive years.
Also sighted last weekend were my first Snow Buntings of the Fall. It seems like they vary a bit in their seasonal movements. The MOU website says they can arrive anytime between Oct 5th to Oct 18th – it seems they’re a bit late this year. An old timer once told me that when you see the first Snow Buntings it means that snow is 3 weeks away. I’ve always remembered the old adage, but it has never rang true! This year it’s already snowed a couple times, and it feels like winter right now…Oh well, it’s fun seeing the Snow Buntings again and the flash of white as they fly from the roadsides.