The Way I See Things



Another bitterly cold and windy day had me back at Hillers, rather than risking a trip up onto the Cotswold scarp. I finally caught up with the famous Hillers Brambling, though he failed to offer me a decent photo opportunity, being more interested in fossicking around in the discarded fruit and vegetables at the base of one of the seeders after spilled sunflower hearts than in posing.

Far more obliging was this pretty little Redpoll, which cast such an alluring over-the-shoulder smoulder in my direction that I felt it would have been rude to ignore it. I had the bird down as a Lesser Redpoll, because this is the species I've seen previously at Hillers, and it's much more common in this country than the so-called Common Redpoll; but something about its pallor made me hesitate, so I put a sequence of shots in the West Midlands Birding group on Facebook, and asked for opinions on the identification. Another birder came back to me with the following comment:

"First-winter Common (Mealy) Redpoll. Not as frosty as adults can look but the mantle shows the beginnings of pale feathering, it has a clear broad white wing bar and the cleanish belly with broad black streaky flanks are clear pointers. It also has a large red patch on its head and the bill is rather stout looking. Redpoll are extremely variable but often fairly obvious if two species are seen in the hands of bird ringers where an obvious feature is the bigger size of Mealy over Lesser."

Of course, this doesn't really matter (except to my bird list, where a second Redpoll species would be number 91 of the year), but it's interesting because while the Lesser Redpoll is a resident bird, the Common Redpoll is a winter visitor here from Scandinavia and Russia, and rarely makes it beyond Scotland and eastern England. There are though what are called "irruption years", when food is scarce in their home territories, and a greater number of birds move, and move further, than is usually the case, and given the winter influx of Waxwings we've seen here this winter in search of berries, it's quite possible that these seed eaters have also had to move further than they normally would in search of food.

My second photo tonight is a Nuthatch taking a bath. This amused me quite a lot because although the bird spent a long time in the water it didn't appear to be enjoying itself - in fact it seemed to be wearing the usual Nuthatch expression of extreme irritation. "You got a problem? Huh? Got something to say? No? Good. Well back off then. Give a bird some privacy."  Errr... sorry. OK then - will do.

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