March 9, 2011 [LINK / comment]

Life bird: (un-)Common Redpoll

Bird watchers never know what sudden pleasant surprises they may encounter, along with prolonged periods of humdrum routine. Last weekend, thanks to two friends in the Augusta Bird Club, I was lucky to get to see a quite rare "Common" Redpoll for the first time in my life. This bird is "common" in the northern latitudes, but hardly ever ventures this far south, unless food supplies are short in its usual wintering grounds. In that sense, it is similar to Pine siskins or Red-breasted nuthatches. I had to spend nearly a full hour waiting for the avian visitor, during which time I got to see a wide variety of birds feeding on the back balcony of the hosts' home, as well as two Red-tailed hawks and a Sharp-shinned hawk squabbling with two Ravens in the distance. I also spotted a Red Fox lurking along the edge of the pasture. Then, all of a sudden the Redpoll finally showed up, and I even got a picture before it flew away. Triumph! That raises my lifetime total of bird species sighted to 403, as shown on the newly-updated Life Bird List page. Many, many thanks to Beth and Harry Lumadue for sharing their good fortune with other birders.

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll (male), Fishersville, VA, March 5, 2011.

The above photo may be a bit blurry, but it does show the key physical features of the Common Redpoll: the bright cherry red cap, the pale red breast, the streaked lower flanks, the black face and chin, the white eye brow, the short yellow beak, the white wing bar, and the indented tip of the tail. No doubt whatsoever.

I have had quite a number of other birding experiences over the past few months, including two trips to South Dakota, but have not had the time to report them in blog form. I plan to post new bird photos in the near future.