Saturday, January 19, 2013

Redpolls and Other Excitement!

Yesterday was one of the first sunny days we have had in central Pennsylvania in about a week. I had kept hearing reports of at least two Hoary Redpolls and a flock of 160 Common Redpolls visiting someone's feeder, so a friend and I decided to take a ride and investigate. Common Redpolls breed in arctic tundra and boreal forest habitats found all around the arctic circle, but do occasionally migrate every few years (at least in the U.S.) as far south as the central US. These occasional migrations are called "irruptions" and happen in the winter. One very interesting fact about these birds is that they have little pouches in their throats to quickly stash food temporarily allowing them to eat it in a more sheltered location at their leisure.
On the other hand, Hoary Redpolls are much rarer in this area as they breed in the high arctic and typically only come as far south as the northern US during their winter wanderings. Your best chance of finding them is to look very carefully through flocks of Common Redpolls and have an experienced birder help you with the id since it is an extremely difficult bird to pick out of a flock. I was lucky enough to see about 50-60 Common Redpolls, and one female Hoary Redpoll on my excursion, but my only decent photo was of a Common. Taking photos through glass is quite the challenge.

Common Redpoll - male

While waiting almost 3 hours to see the Hoary, I also got to see a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker that came down to the suet feeders and one of those strange yellow/orange House Finches. These strange looking House Finches are just like the normal ones, but their diet was lacking some elements while they were molting and growing new feathers, so the red coloration is lacking. If you want to read more about this I found an interesting article about it here: House Finch Color Variants

Pileated Woodpecker

Center of frame - yellow variant House Finch

On the way home I decided to swing by the little "duck pond" where the Double-crested Cormorant was found a few days ago and follow up on some reports of a male Common Goldeneye that had shown up. The Cormorant was gone, but the Common Goldeneye was there. This was the first time I had gotten good, close looks at this species as they breed in Canada and plop down in the first open water they come to when migrating south for the winter. Of course they seem to prefer large bodies of water where they can get as far away from birders as possible.

Common Goldeneye - male


holdingmoments said...

Seemed strange to see some of the birds we get over here.
The Redpolls have been split here, and we now have about 4 variations. We mostly get Lesser Redpolls, but occasionally Common, Mealy and a few other variations. To me, they're just lovely birds. lol
The Goldeneye is another winter visitor we have.

Kelly said...

...glad you saw the Hoary Redpoll. I have never seen one. I love the little Common Redpolls, but they are also very rare around here. Cute goldeneye as well. I love seeing them!