Redpoll...but which one?

It was such a glorious morning that I decided to postpone report writing, leave the dog at home, and take my camera to Woodwalton Fen in search of such goodies as Chinese water-deer or bearded tits. It was good to have a few hours away from work and home, although, rather disappointingly, wildlife was thin on the ground.

By mid-morning there was still frost on the grass in shaded areas and it seemed very bizarre watching dragonflies buzzing about in the sunny areas - both common darter and a single migrant hawker - while crunching frost ice crystals underfoot. I even saw a mating pair of darters - in mid November!

My attention was caught be the friendly chattering sound of a flock of finches foraging through the alders. They were quite heavily silhouetteted against the sun, but when I finally managed to see their markings I realised it was a mixed flock of goldfinches and redpolls.The latter are definitely a winter visitor, and are usually seen in small flocks feeding on birch or alder seeeds. It's quite diffiicult to distinguish between lesser and mealy redpolls - this has the rather pale, greyish look of a mealy redpoll, but that could be an artefact of the light conditions - I suspect it's really just a young or female lesser redpoll, which are far more frequent locally.

I felt quite shattered when I arrived home at lunchtime, having walked quite a long way round the fen, but managed to summon up enough energy to go into town with Ben and Alex. There were hordes of people in Queensgate, most with accompanying children, all clearly expecting something exciting to happen. We discovered that Santa was scheduled to arrive and the shopping centre's Christmas lights were to be switched on, so made a quick escape before madness ensued!!

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