naturespeak 

Evening Grosbeak. Photo: Robert McCaw, Canadian Wildlife Service/Environment Canada. Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) A pair of very pretty Pine Grosbeaks were recently spotted right on Alta Lake Road, apparently attracted by the prospect of a tasty meal of road salt. Male Pine Grosbeaks are spectacularly coloured, with a bright, rose-red body and blackish wings with white streaks. Females have a dull mustard-coloured head and a light grey body streaked with white. Grosbeaks are hardy, seed-eating birds that use their very large ("gross") beaks to break the buds off trees and to extract the pits from fruits. Although Pine Grosbeaks reside primarily in coniferous forests, they will go to lower elevations and oceans if the winter creates a scarcity of food. The call of the Pine Grosbeak is a 3-note whistle which it uses to keep the flock together. Perhaps it is a sign of an early spring or just the fact that the weather is fairly mild this season that they have made such an early appearance in Whistler. Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) Another beautiful bird, the Evening Grosbeak, was also spotted recently by Jeff and Patty Heintzman in Alpine Meadows. They are larger than Pine Grosbeaks and have a shorter tail. Male birds have a lovely yellow-shaded body with white patches on the wings and a bright yellow streak on top of the head. The drabber females have a silver-grey body with flashes of dull yellow. Evening Grosbeaks also reside in coniferous forests but will be seen in more urban areas and deciduous woodlands in the winter. Evening Grosbeaks are known for their voracious appetite. One particularly ravenous bird was seen eating 96 sunflower seeds from a feeder in just 5 minutes. That’s even more impressive than a lifty with free food at a payday party. To report new sightings, e-mail Leigh Edwards at Leighe11@hotmail.com. Upcoming Events: March 31 – Birds in watercolours. Isobel MacLaurin is offering another great introductory class in nature art. Supplies included. $2 for Naturalist Society members only. Please call Mitch Sulkers (932-3707) to register. April 1 – Monthly Bird Walk. Meet at the base of Lorimer Road at 7 a.m. (please note earlier time!). Contact Michael Thompson (932-5010) for more information. To join the Whistler Naturalists, please call Bob Brett (938-8900) or Marlene Siemens (938-9690).

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