Friday, 17 January 2014

Arctic Redpoll

It’s taken a while but I finally found an Arctic Redpoll (polarsisik) this winter. There have been more than usual reported in the south of the country but I have never had a really good chance to grill any of the flocks of Common Redpolls (gråsisik) that I have seen although saying that it looks that many of the reported birds have not actually been consorting with their southern cousins.

I braved the elements (it’s still snowing with a strong breeze making it quite unpleasant at times) and chose Fornebu hoping that I could find Jack Snipe or Water Rail. The reedbeds were devoid of these birds and also no sign of the moustached tits. In fact I was beginning to regret having left the house when I did at least find the over-wintering male Kestrel (tårnfalk). It allowed me to come close and as I took some pictures I heard a Tree Sparrow (pilfink). Not exactly a rarity but still a bird and as I walked towards it I heard some finch calls and realised they were Twite (bergirisk) – the first record here this winter. There were forty birds and I could also here a Redpoll (gråsisik) call. It took a while to find it but then there it was – a particularly pale bird..... it looked good for Arctic but wasn’t a classic male so some of the characters were subtle and I concentrated on getting photos which in overcast conditions and snowy background is far more easy. The pictures confirmed it as an Arctic Redpoll. The relatively broad streaking on the flanks suggests a young bird which is confirmed by the pointed tail feathers (adults have rounder tail feathers). I didn’t notice it in the field but there is also a Common Redpoll in one of the pictures which gives a nice comparison.

The last I saw of it was when the Twite flew off leaving it alone with the Tree Sparrow. It soon followed the Twite though and then gave the trill call of redpolls. However, it was noticeably different from that a normal Redpoll (four of which had flown over calling earlier). I have noticed before that the call of hornemanni Arctic Redpoll is quite distinct but this is the first time I have noticed that an exilipes also has a call that is notably different to Common (Mealy) Redpoll. I am not so good at describing calls but would describe the trill as being slower and deeper.

Arctic Redpoll (polarisisk). note the unstreaked white rump, white tramp lines and cold grey mantle. Also bright white wing bar and tertial edges

A single narrow dark feather on the undertail coverts is perfectly OK for Arctic Redpoll. Note the streaking on the flanks which is quite heavy for an Arctic and suggests a young bird which is confirmed by the pointed tail feathers

I managed this obscured close up but the bird then flew away, Note the buffy tones to the face and mantle visible in this closer and better exposed picture

The Arctic Redpoll looking quite classix with a Common Redpoll to the left and a Twite. The Common Redpoll is heavier streaked on the flanks but does have a very white wing bar (which I often see being used as a pro Arctic character although I'm not sure there is much difference) plus white tram lines on the mantle.

the two redpolls: the bird on left bird also has a suggestion of an unmarked although narrow white tump but this is most likely a result of teh rump feathers being raised due to the position of the bird. It is however surely too dark to also be an Arctic

The Arctic from behind

adult male Kestrel (tårnfalk)

After losing the Twite flock I had a quick trip round Maridalen which was particulary unrewarding. In the garden at home there have been more Bullfinches (dompap) than we usually get and this male allowed me close approach. Also a male Yellowhammer (gulspurv) appeared whilst I was writing this which is the first for a number of years and two female Blackbirds (along with an adult and 2cy male) now brings me up to at least seven Blackbirds (svarttrost) using the garden (two female, two young males and three adult males) although there could of course be more – only colour ringing could give me the answer.... The Blackbirds are attracted by apples I put out which also attracted two Fieldfares just before it got dark much to the consternation of the Blackbirds.

male Bullfinch (domkmpap). The browner outermost two greater coverts (which also look shorter) would appear to be unmoulted juvenile feathers aging this bird as a 2cy (i.e born last year)

male Yellowhammer (gulspurv) - the first garden record for many record

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