Saturday, February 2, 2013

Common Redpolls still on the move

Dozens of Common Redpolls are still being seen in new areas of Connecticut as they continue to move in as predicted during this enormous irruption season. If you have yet to see one you still have a month or two left, plus however long it takes for all those that have moved south to head back to the north. If you have feeders out and have been unsuccessful in attracting any thus far keep it up! A lot of what goes in to finding even a bird or two in your yard is luck. They have to pass by, see some other species actively feeding, or spot a feeder with what looks like an attractive food source. I do not say that to be obvious but to reiterate that there is no other way to get birds like this than to literally have them pass by your home.

Otherwise there are a couple other good places you can try to find some Common Redpolls. The first would be any weedy and overgrown beach with plenty of vegetation along the water. Piles of sand and rocks do nothing to help feed these little birds, but if you can find some beach with an intact dune, lots of grass, and with stands of mixed vegetation, you may be able to get lucky and find a migrant group foraging at these stopover sites. Stratford Point had a group of Common Redpolls that slowly built up over a few days doing just this. I was able to count at least 19 individuals on the day with the most birds present. There were probably more of them blending in to the grasses and flitting around too quickly for me to pin down. This was in the middle of the frigid period towards the end of January with the polar air mass parked over the region and they probably felt right at home.

A Northern Harrier popped them up a couple of times, cruising right over the flock and giving them nothing but a brief glance. They did the same realizing, "Hey, it's one of those and not after us" and returning to eat. Northern Harriers would be searching for small mammals, not those small and fast flying birds. These kinds of sightings show you why coastal habitats with mixed and bountiful vegetation are important even in the winter months. After all of the damage wrought to the coastline during the past couple of tropical storm seasons it is time to ensure all towns and cities replant their beach properties with an appropriate mixture of species of grasses, shrubs, and trees.

Another specific spot to watch are any stands of birch trees you can find. Even a solitary tree can sometimes get lucky. This has not been a good year for catkins around here, and reports of them feeding in these stands have been sparse. This may be why, outside of feeders, they have been a more difficult find. I have struck out at the birch stands near me, though we have had no lack of feeder visits in town. Nevertheless, birch trees are often excellent food sources that can bring in a large flock of birds to feed for prolonged periods.

Now if we can only get more Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings as we enter February and food supplies continue to drop...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

1 comment:

  1. Awesome to hear that we still have another couple of months with these birds! I felt extremely lucky to get to see a flock at the Coastal Center in Milford this past week -- they were foraging in low vegetation, like the redpolls in your photos. (Some pictures from that encounter are here: Thanks for the informative post!
    -Elizabeth Medina-Gray