Kim Smith Writes-
How lovely to receive a visit from this charming flock of redpolls. I knew it to be a new-to-our garden species, but did not realize visits were so much more uncommon than common. Oh how I wish I had taken more snapshots! Common Redpolls are another "irruptive species" from the boreal forests of North American (see Pine Siskins archived on blog), and the winter of 2010-2011 has proven to be an irruptive year for both Common Redpoll and White-winged Crossbill, with many sightings reported in Massachusetts. To learn whether we had Hoary Redpolls or Common Redpolls I emailed Chris Leahy, Mass Audubon’s Chair of Field Ornithology:
Hi Chris–Last week I found this inexpensive Nyjer seed bird feeder at Whole Foods, hung it in the garden next to the finch feeder, and was immediately visited by what I think are redpolls. They stayed for a few days and have not been seen again. It was dreary and rainy, so my photos are gray, not crispy. Do you think they are Common Redpolls or Hoary Redpolls or are the photos not clear enough?
I posted a link on my blog regarding your talk at the Sawyer Free and was disappointed it was cancelled because of the weather. Click on the photo–Chris Leahy and the Birds of Cape Ann--I think it looks like the three sparrows on the right are listening to a talk given by the sparrow on the left–please forgive the "bird" humor. Let me know when you are giving the talk and I will repost.
From Chris– Great, Kim! Send some over to my side of the harbor please! They are Common Redpolls – which are by no means common most winters. There’s a lot of plumage variation in both species and several races of Common Redpolls. Hoary’s are much rarer of course and tend to hang out in flocks of Commons. Their best marks are a very tiny bill and pure white (or nearly so) under tail coverts (not always easy to see). Sometimes they appear much whiter, but not always and Commons can get very pale especially late in the year as the brown tips of the feathers wear. Chris adds the following important note:
Keep your eyes on your fruiting shrubs for Bohemian Waxwings. We had a flock of 5 (with Cedars) at Halibut Point during the Birding Weekend on Saturday. And Mary in East Gloucester found a dead one on her deck. I’ve had Cedars in my privet hedge during the last 10 days but no Bohemians (yet!?).