Sunday, 10 February 2008

Mealies are again the main attraction

Male Mealy Redpoll: note the pale ground colour (photo: Dominic Mitchell)

Female Mealy Redpoll (photo: Dominic Mitchell)

The park was bathed in a crispy white frost this morning, and largely deserted - ideal conditions for some good late winter birding. The low temperatures had not resulted in any out-of-place avian visitors on the reservoir, but there were a few highlights elsewhere.

A tour of the perimeter hedge around the playing fields resulted in Dominic Mitchell, Bob Watts and James Arquette getting Fieldfare on their park year lists. Perhaps this was the bird seen yesterday nearby on the reservoir embankment by Gareth Richards; Alan Gibson had one in the same area in early January, so it may - unusually - be an overwintering bird.

No sooner had it been remarked that conditions might suit an overflying Jackdaw than a characteristic call revealed the presence of two such corvids passing over high to the north. Shortly afterwards, a couple of finches dropped into the cricket scrub, one clearly a calling Greenfinch; the other, however, was a dapper male Siskin, watched at close range for a short time before it moved off into the hawthorn hedge at the back of the scrub.

Pride of place for the day, however, must again go to the Mealy Redpolls. At least one male and a female were seen again on Dukes Avenue, feeding in the large, seed-heavy birch on the corner with Grove Avenue, or sometimes in the birch outside number 128. Bob obtained good video footage and Dominic some better still images than yesterday, some of which are reproduced here. These cracking finches are subtly but consistently different from the Lessers which often accompany them; note the paler, rather 'frosty' ground colour, reduced buffy tones and larger bulk of the Mealies. Males of the latter look especially smart with their well-marked pink breasts on a cool white background. The calls of these birds seem very similar, if not identical (though some redpolls, presumably Mealies, occasionally sound rather 'hoarser').