Let’s face it: Pine Grosbeaks are rubbish. They’re fat, greedy, ostentatiously brightly coloured, noisy, argumentative and too bloody lazy to fly across the North Sea to Norfolk when you want them to. If they were humans, you’d probably find them sitting in a trendy bar in the City all day wearing expensive designer suits and fat signet rings, drinking Cristal while braying to their mates about whether to get a second Bentley or an Aston.
Clearly, most birders are far too discerning to fall for such gaudy trinkets. Their ideal species would be more delicate, decorated in subtly varied tones, harder to see, and vocal only on occasion, when it genuinely had something to say. More like a Siberian Tit, for instance.
Now these are absolutely stunning little birds in my book! What they lack in primary colours is more than compensated by charisma and character. Two pairs at Tuulen Tupa presented a considerably greater challenge to photograph than the grosbeaks, despite occasionally showing down to a couple of feet (inside my minimum focus distance a few times). The first of the shots below was taken at a focal length around 200mm, when it landed on a bucket of sunflower seeds after flying directly between me and Jono at head height!
Continuing on the theme of subtle Sibes, Siberian Jay is a pretty superb bird as well, one I’ve long wanted to see. Again, there were a couple of pairs around the hotel feeding station, favouring strips of fat pinned in the birch trees for their benefit. They tended to show most consistently early morning, when the light wasn’t so good, but also ghosted in from the surrounding forest now and then during the rest of the day.