I managed a flying visit to Allerthorpe Common today in order to try and catch up with the Arctic Redpoll that has been giving visiting birders a headache and a half by been fairly elusive at times. My last visit after work on Friday resulted in a small flock of less than 40 Common (Mealy) and Lesser Redpolls but no sign of the Arctic.
Today I walked in from a different angle and picked up a small flock of 30-40 Redpoll feeding along a field margin, before I could start grilling them something flushed everything from the nearby fields and they were up and gone. I decided to walk in the direction they had gone in the hope of relocating them, however after an hour there was still no sign. I bumped into Darren Ward who'd bumped into Ian Andrews who had seen the bird earlier in the morning. At least it was still here, somewhere! We decided to split up in the hope that we'd come across the flock but just as we were about to move off in different directions a flock of well over 100, probably closer to 125 birds flew low over calling.
The birds remained frustratingly flighty and broke up into slightly smaller groups, one such group of about 40 birds flew close in and landed in the heath to feed. After about 10 minutes they flew up into a low, close Silver Birch tree, both Darren and I got straight onto the same bird - it stood out like a sore thumb! It landed facing away, the first thing that stood out was its huge plain white rump and overall pale appearance. Undertail coverts appeared pure white also. As the bird turned its head to preen it had an obviously small bill and was 'bull-necked' with a small red patch on its head. The breast appeared pale (very little/no pink/red) with very fine streaking down the flanks. The bird, along with the remaining birds in the flock dropped back into the heath where they remained feeding (in silence, almost invisible) for almost an hour, providing the occasional tantalising view on the ground and in trees at greater distance.
Chris Gomersall has very kindly allowed me to use some of his record shots (below - ALL PHOTOGRAPHS © CHRIS GOMERSALL) from last week. Although not all of the identification features can be observed from these photos they give some idea of what the bird looked like. There was many Mealy and Lesser Redpolls present, and some were incredibly variable. Even the odd bird with a nice Twite-esque pink rump. Eventually the flock got up and flew off, appearing to fly at least 500 m away form the YWT reserve. (I did hear from Darren that they, including the Arctic Redpoll came back into the YWT section again later in the day).
I'll hopefully try and get back over there early Saturday for further looks at this smart bird.
A flock of 69 Corn Bunting and 50 Yellowhammer was a nice sight. On Friday 19 Goosander were observed flying past, today 12 Goosander were also observed flying in the same direction.