I returned to Hurdman on the following Tuesday. I didn’t see the Barrow’s Goldeneye that has been frequenting this section of the river, but I did see one Common Merganser and several Common Goldeneyes.
In the woods, a flock of about 150 starlings feeding on the buckthorn berries was an unexpected sight. Maybe one of these days the Bohemian Waxwings will find these berries as well! The usual birds were present at the feeders, including lots of House Finches and goldfinches and about half a dozen Common Redpolls. I was happy to find these endearing finches so accessible, and spent most of my lunch hour photographing them. Here are a few images of the redpolls feeding.
Redpolls are named for their bright red crown or “poll”. They have a black chin and black lores. Males have a red or pink wash on the rump, cheeks and breast whereas females have little or no red, except on the crown.
Although they are abundant on their breeding grounds of the boreal and taiga regions, Common Redpolls are only found in populated areas of North America in the winter when food supplies dwindle further north. Such irruptions typically occur every other year. One of the largest irruptions occurred during the “superflight” of 2007-08 when many of the boreal finches – including Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Common and Hoary Redpolls, and Purple Finches – left the boreal forest after the largest tree seed crop failure in a decade across more than 3200 km (2000 mi) of boreal forest from Saskatchewan into Quebec. They also appeared the following winter along with Pine Siskins and White-winged Crossbills, two other irruptive species. After a quiet winter of 2009-10 with no boreal finches, it is great to see them again and admire their beautiful colours.