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Redpolls at our Doorstep

posted by Tim Avery at
on Monday, December 5, 2011 

By now most birders are well aware of the Snowy Owl invasion making waves on listservs, blogs, and the eBird homepage. dozens, if not hundreds of birds have been reported across the northern tier of the lower 48 in the past 2 weeks. Reports from as far south as Kansas are tantalising birders across the mid section of the country, wondering if their state might be the next to have a sighting. If one could show up in Hawaii, then why not anywhere else on the mainland--certainly it seems far more likely!

With all the talk of Snowies another northern specialty hasn't gotten quite the attention that the larger obvious bird has. But it is already looking like a stellar year for Common Redpolls in the lower 48 as well. Utah already has had one report of a single bird at Antelope Island State Park, while Idaho and Wyoming are now having multiple reports, with flocks of up to 20 birds. It seems more and more likely with each passing day that redpolls might make a decent push into Utah this winter.

Common Redpoll aboard a Pelagic Vessel off Long Island, NY

These lovely little finches are quite easy to identify at a backyard feeder, or even in a mixed flock of goldfinches feeding in a tree. But the best clue and perhaps the first sign of these birds may be their incredible chattering. In flight or feeding at the tops of trees it would be easy to miss these guys, but if you are listening you may hear them far before you catch sight of them Below is an example of a mixed bag of calls and chatter from Xeno canto. Take a listen.

For the next couple weeks and the rest of the winter this would be one set of calls I would listen to and learn. Because when you find that flock of redpolls that everyone else can chase to look at, you'll have a lot of birds thankful that you learned the sound that helped you chase down the flock!

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Blogger Birding is Fun! said...

Hauling tree debris to the dump yesterday, I was keeping my eye out for Snowy Owls around Bountiful Pond. I never realized how much white litter there is out there!

December 5, 2011 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Ryan O'Donnell said...

Right on, Tim. I was just studying these earlier this afternoon so I'd be ready. . . .

December 5, 2011 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Robert: When I was in college in Wisconsin I took a weekend to drive around the Horicon Marsh area looking for 1 of a couple of Snowy Owls reported there. Logs covered in snow, boulders covered in snow, snow covered in snow, all caught my attention in the shape of owls. Finally one of the owls caught my attention, although it only looks like a clump of white digiscoped through a 60x scope about 3/4 mile away:

The worst picture you've ever seen of a Snowy Owl.

@Ryan: Every year I pull out the iPod and listen to it for a few minutes so it's fresh in my head. Yesterday I found a mixed flock of goldfinches, House Finches, and White-crowned Sparrows, and was listening intently for any sign of a Redpoll. The similarities in some of the calls between the goldfinches and the redpolls will at least keep me on my toes.

December 6, 2011 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger Shyloh Monster said...

Just had a repoll sighting in Bountiful!

December 12, 2011 at 12:31 PM  

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