Monday, January 18, 2016

Redpoll update...

What a lovely weekend that was, sunny cold and crisp, just the job after weeks of clarts* and rain.

A few walks around the homelands added another 10 species to the 2016 Patch List, mainly very common stuff like Greylag, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, but also 2 Willow Tits fighting and buzzing around at Craster soon to be joined by an equally tricky patch bird, a Treecreeper. Rock Pipits and a Shag were in Craster Harbour too, so its slowly coming along.

I might have seen more, If I hadn't been tempted back down to Johns patch at Birling to see what our Redpoll looked like in the sunshine.

After a full week of debate that had the emotions churning, at last, young Jonathan Farooqi has caught a photo, capturing the bird's very essence. Forget the Garner Redpoll Code for just a moment and wallow in this image for me.... in particular image number 8 from the top.

Now take yourself back 30 years, if you were birding then, and just think what your reaction would have been if you had found this in a hedge with a load of brown birds. All of us, to a man, would have shouted ARCTIC REDPOLL! 

I posted my own redpoll CV in the last episode, so you know that I have watched a lot of Mealy Redpolls over the years, but have never known one in the wild or in captivity to show that amount of whiteness or, more importantly, feather bulk and posture ( fluff, to you and I). Martin Garner suggests using 'jizz' before going into the minutiae. This bird, as soon as it settles, puffs itself into a round cotton wool ball, Every time. Only when coming in to feed does it take on a different persona, becoming all tight feathers and slimmer, like a fat bloke breathing in on the beach.( Not a word from you lot either).

So, on Sunday we managed some good views of the redpoll in both of its forms, both slim and fluffed, but mainly at a bit of a distance. The scope gave good views though. At one point it was on the ground scuffling for seed where it could be compared to Lesser Redpoll and Linnet.  This flock also has probably 2 Mealies in there, and one bird it associated with in particular was a big brown Mealy.

The bird still has a few problems that dont seem to fit with our current understanding of redpolls. That bill for instance gives it a Mealy look about it.  But I think thats the problem, we just dont know all there is. These birds are very difficult and may even merge in some areas though studies in Canada didn't think they interbred. Maybe Coues's Redpoll is more 'flexible' that we think....

*mud for those south of the Tyne....

Notes from yesterday done in the car after my fingers had thawed out, hence scribbled writing. Colour added later back home.

Good enough for the Handbook....



7 comments:

Gary (Vipers) said...

Hi Stewart. This bird didn't show today but I did pick out at least two that I would have said were Mealies. They were sticking mainly to the South West corner of the game crop field, so quite distant. I think the only rule for Redpolls is forget about the rules.

Steve Gale said...

ARCTIC!!! Also love the blog header Stewart!

kirsty franklin said...

Hi Stewart

is this location/bird easy to find

cheers Nick

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

As ever, great sketches!

Andrew Hodson said...

I'm so pleased that my one and only certain Arctic (over 40 years ago) was a fluffy snowball. It also helped with ID that I was standing next to the then BTO Head of Ringing.

Your two posts are very informative and helpful. Thank you.

Stewart said...

Gary - Unlucky Gary, its not been difficult when I've been....
Steve - Yes!
Nick - Easy location Nick, bird only a couple of hundred yards from the car at most. Email me if you need details....
Simon - Cheers
Andrew - I've only had 2 before this one, both those self found, and accepted, but not for 20 years.

abbey meadows said...

Nice find Stew and John. I'll have to look to see if there is a flock of Redpolls at the old tip. Great illustrations Stew.