Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Friday, 17 December 2010

Arctic Tundra... but some good birds

Widdrington tip was like the Russian tundra with temperatures to match. Usually I see few birds when the 'carr' is frozen but there were plenty today. When I first went into the main Alder plantation I could hear a faint 'toot' of possibly a Northern Bullfinch. I recognise the call as I have seen and heard them before and I thought that it may be closer than it sounds unlike the heavier melancholic peuww of our own species. After five minutes I gave up as it went quiet and another species caught my attention.  Woodcocks began to fly in all directions. I only walked the length of the taller Alders and I counted 16. I took a few blurry shots but for real photos visit Richard Dunn's blog linked from Boulmer birder. There was a flock of 120 Siskin in here with about 15 Goldfinches but the star birds were Mealy Redpolls. 15 Redpolls flew over flying towards Stobswood but they looked like Mealy's in flight but I wasn't sure then I picked up five in the Alder trees and they were soon joined by another two. One of them was so white it looked almost like an albino!
A walk around the foot and mouth plantation produced small flocks of Fieldfare and Yellowhammers as well as 8 Grey Partridges. A Kestrel here was hunting unsuccessfully as time after time it went down it was straight up again with nothing. I can't imagine what any of these birds were feeding on as it was very cold and bleak. Other notables here were 80 Pink footed geese in the distance and 5 Snipe.

I decided to return to the Alder plantation to see if I could see the Redpolls again and try to get a pic but as soon as I walked in I heard the Bullfinch call again and this time I saw the birds responsible. Two male Bullfinches looked a bit disappointing, not by their beauty but they looked and sounded like our usual ones but I could still hear the faint tooting call and they were joined by a female which was a beast compared to the other two. Looking at it from behind the white rump completely merged into the undertail making it very bright and contrasting with dark primaries and a browner back. The views were brief as the birds kept moving and twigs and branches kept getting in the way. In the winter of 1995/6 me, Stewart and John caught a Northern Bully half a mile away in similar habitat, see Stewart's blog 'from the notebook' Nov 22 and Richard Dunn has calls of Northern Bully and our own resident species for comparison. I took notes and even drew them...thank God I don't have a scanner!


Ghost of Stringer said...

You sure it wasn't "so white it looked like and arctic" ?!!

Richard Dunn said...

I gonna try for the beast on Sunday (weather permitting), any hints on where you saw it?

abbey meadows said...

Definitely mealy stringer though all sorts of possibilities go through your mind when looking through them
The birds were present about 50 yards down an indistinct path Richard that separates the tall Alders to the right and the smaller Willows and Birch on the left just past the gas burner and generater at the entrance to the old tip.