Log Cabin Vireo, Grosbeaks

Richard Bradus


Lots of folks visited the Log Cabin Trail and environs in GGP after Ken's timely posting of finding the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. I arrived shortly after Derek Heins and Jim Chiropolos (around 11:30am?) and was initially disappointed as the Grosbeaks were absent. But then I got lucky: standing off the trail in some cover, a small bird with bright yellow underparts flew right over me, landing in small nearby trees. My first impression was of a warbler, but when it popped into the open briefly near the top of a berry-filled Hawthorn it was clear that it was a Vireo, a gray headed vireo - but not like any I had seen before. Luckily, Derek managed to get a quick photo, and Jim initially suggested Red-eyed (or Yellow-green), but based on the extensive yellow underparts, the relatively plain gray head (no obvious black edging to the light superciliary stripe) and especially the rather light greenish back, it seemed likely that we had spotted a Yellow-green Vireo!

We had a few more glimpses when it flew into a sycamore (?) just to the east (along with a more typical Warbling Vireo), but then we lost it. Thankfully, near 1pm, with many more in attendance, I spotted it again when it returned to the hawthorn, hid for a bit, but then flew up to an open perch high in a big eucalyptus, where the young bucks in the group were able to get some photos in the minute or so that it posed. The mob followed it to the oaks and such to the east but it soon disappeared once more.

Not giving up, I stayed for another half hour or so and got lucky again when one of the Grosbeaks flew into the blackberry bramble on the hillside just to the south. It stayed partially obscured behind the vegetation but eventually settled in to feed on the blackberries, affording some incomplete views. As per Ken's initial report, it appeared to be a first fall male, with a fair amount of rosy color on the breast but also some streaking and broken, thinnish white wing bars. A bit later, following it as it wandered to the west, I spotted the other Grosbeak, presumably female, showing a seemingly darker back and wings and considerable streaking of the breast and flanks, with a buffy/yellow-orange wash to the upper breast and wing linings. A number of the mob got some photos as it foraged for a bit down low around some small trees and brush.

Thanks to Derek and Jim for their ID of the vireo, and for the support and camaraderie of all of you joining the mob. A pretty good outing when one sets out to see a "rarity" and is able to spot an even rarer visitor!

Richard Bradus
San Francisco