Sunday, 5 February 2012

In Search of Winter Birds, Norfolk 2012 (Day3)

The third day of our winter birding trip to Norfolk, and it would appear that the predicted four inches of snow overnight had arrived. So prepared for the worst we opened the door, stepped out only to be surprised by the depth of the snow!!!

BTO Birding Team Surprised by Snow

After digging ourselves out we headed off to Titchwell for some more birding and in particular, the chance of seeing the Coues' Arctic Redpoll that had been in the area for a while. We arrived at Titchwell to be immediately greeted by a Jack Snipe and a Woodcock in the car park, but pressed on to the main path where the redpolls had been seen.

We immediately picked up a group of redpolls feeding low down in the Alder trees, with the lowest bird being the Coues' Caduelis hornemanni exilipes. The Redpoll species complex (Lesser, Mealy and Arctic) can be a tricky one and so we set about working through the features on the birds in front of us.

Coues' Arctic Redpoll  Carduelis hornemanni exilipes  - Titchwell

Our immediate impression of the Coues' Arctic was of a very cold, pale bird lacking any hint of brown.

Coues' Arctic Redpoll  Carduelis hornemanni exilipes  - Titchwell

The bill was very small and the rump pure white and predominantly unstreaked; the flanks were not heavily streaked, and a single central dark streak in the central undertail covert (as seen below) was evident, this is a very good 'exilipes' feature.

Coues' Arctic Redpoll   Carduelis hornemanni exilipes  - Titchwell

Given that this bird exhibited some streaking on the flanks, and had very pointed tail feathers , it is indicative of it being first year bird. The next bird we looked at was a Mealy (common) Redpoll C Flammea, which in contrast to the Arctic is a warmer coloured bird, but still with pale underparts. The bill is larger and male birds can show a pinkish flush across the upper breast.

Mealy (common) Redpoll Carduelis flammea - Titchwell

A variable amount of streaking is present on the flanks and the undertail coverts usually are streaked, a few can be unstreaked. Both Arctic and Mealy Redpolls are larger than Lesser Redpoll, with Mealy being the largest.

Mealy (common) Redpoll Carduelis flammea - Titchwell
Lesser Redpolls C. caberet are generally much browner in coloration and much more heavily streaked on the flanks, with a darker rump. In addition this species is much smaller than the two former species.
Lesser Redpoll Carduelis caberet

In all we spent a good hour working our way through the different repolls present, which currently have been split into three species.

Lesser Redpoll Carduelis caberet

We continued on down the main track and were faced with a scene that would be more fitting in the Arctic. All of the lagoons were frozen solid except from small areas of water, and these areas were crammed full of birds. 

A Frozen Titchwell 

Scanning though the birds produced good numbers of Shoveler, Tufted Ducks, Pochard, Pintail, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon.

Drake and Duck Shoveler - Titchwell

A handful of Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit,and Golden Plover, two Ruff, and single Avocet and Bar-tailed Godwit, and two Juvenile Spoonbills, which were a bit of a surprise.

Juvenile Spoonbills - Titchwell
A quick view out to sea produced two Velvet Scoter, five Long-tailed ducks, including one drake and several Goldeneye. With not much else to see at Titchwell we moved on to Thornham Harbour, where we walked along the bank to the sea. On route we saw several Rock Pipits, a Peregrine Falcon, two Barn Owls, a Rough-legged Buzzard that gave great and prolonged views, and two Short-eared Owls. Very few ducks were present on the sea, but we did catch up with our first Red-breasted Mergansers, two Black-throated and several Red-throated Divers and a single Gannet. A Kingfisher in the creek back near the car was a very unusual record for the area.

Choseley Drying Barns were our next stop, where we had 30+ Corn Buntings, 20+ Yellowhammers, several Red-legged and Grey Partridges and loads of mad boxing Hares. Our final stop of the day was the cliff at Hunstanton where we saw Fulmar and a handful of Common Scoter. 

Surprisingly, we ended the day having seen 100 species, 18 of which were new, thereby bringing our trip today to 127.

1 comment:

  1. Great shots of the Arctic Redpoll!


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