Monday, December 15, 2014

Brambling in Carbon County

On the morning of November 21st, Francis and Janice Bergquist discovered a strange bird coming to their feeder. After sending a photo to Matt Fraker, word quickly went out that they were hosting a Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) at their feeders, a finch native to much of Europe and Asia. While regularly encountered during migration on Alaskan islands in the Bering Sea, with double-digit flocks sometimes being recorded, Brambling are very rare anywhere in the lower 48 states.
Brambling - Carbon Co., WY, © Libby Megna

Like other "winter" finches of North America, such as crossbills and redpolls, some years are definitely better for Brambling in the lower 48 than others. This year seems to be just such a year, with at least two found in Washington, one in northern California, one in Montana, and one as far east as Ontario. Hawaii even got their first record of Brambling when a flock of 15 was discovered. So, when I got a phone call that a Brambling was found in Wyoming, I wasn't too surprised.

Pending acceptance by the Wyoming Bird Records Committee, this represents the third time Brambling has been found in the state, with both of the other records coming in November of 1985, another "irruption" year for the species.

Brambling - Carbon Co., WY, © Shawn Billerman

Over the weekend, a bunch of graduate students at the University of Wyoming here in Laramie made the trek to Saratoga. We were treated to wonderful views of this beautiful little finch. Over the course of the hour we were watching the bird, it hung out in the large spruce next to the house, in mixed company with House Sparrows and House Finches, and would feed on the ground. In between foraging bouts, the Brambling would hide in the dense cover of the spruce, trying to avoid being noticed by the Sharp-shinned Hawk that was constantly patrolling the feeders. Many thanks to the Bergquists for graciously allowing birders to come see this beautiful bird.

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