Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Mealy Redpolls at Blashford Lakes - January 2014

A recent visit to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trusts Blashford Lakes reserve gave me the opportunity to pop into the woodland hide to look at the visiting finches. The feeders are a popular place for visiting birders as you can get great views of a variety of species, especially lesser redpolls, siskins and bramblings, although there have been none of the latter recorded so far this year. Siskins too have been thin on the ground, but there are good numbers of lesser redpolls coming to the feeders, despite the mild weather. There has also been reports of a mealy redpoll frequenting the feeders and fortunately for me it was there as I entered the hide.

Mealy Redpoll Carduelis flammea (first bird)

The bird was very obvious amongst the lesser's since it was larger and paler with pale fringing to the wing feathers and an obvious white rump. The wingbar formed by the greater coverts was also broad and white, and an obvious white tramline was present on the mantle. Looking at the pointed shape of the tail feathers on this bird it appeared that it was a first winter bird.

Mealy Redpoll (first bird)

After a while the Mealy flew off, but before long it appeared to be back again. However, looking at this bird it did not have the overall grey tones of the first bird, the mantle was warmer brown in tone and the streaking on the flanks was not as bold. Looking more closely at the bird the white fringing on the tertials and tips of the primaries was broader. The white rump on this bird was more heavily streaked than the first bird, but this is not visible in the photo below.

Mealy Redpoll (second bird)

For comparison, below is an image of a typical lesser redpoll. The plumage of this bird is much warmer brown in its tone and heavily streaked. The wing bars are buff coloured and the flanks are boldly streaked and brown. Most birds tend to lack the white tramlines down the mantle, but not all.

Lesser Redpoll C. cabaret

Redpolls are notoriously variable in their plumage and therefore care needs to be taken when identifying them. A recent article published the the birding journal British Birds (Volume 106, December 2013) provides an interesting insight into the complexities of redpolls and is worth a read. The image below shows the variation in three birds seen during my visit to Blashford Lakes.

Lesser Redpolls and Eurasian Siskin

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you do get some excellent views of birds on the feeders, so it is definitely worth a visit. But please remember that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is a charity and needs your support, so make sure you leave a donation to help pay for the bird food.

Eurasian Siskin

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