Saturday, 19 February 2011

And number 250 is ...............

Today can best be described by that wonderful Scots word 'dreek'. Damp, cold and dull.

I started the day with my meagre life list on 249. The ideal way of reaching the 250 would have been one of those serendipity moments; an unexpected sighting of a significant omission from my list.

When I reached 249 I declared that my hope was for 250 to be a tweet. I decided at that point that, unless something else presented itself in the meantime, I would probably end up twitching my 250. And so it turned out to be.

Today I had to attend a work meeting at Murton and I decided that I would follow this with my first trip to Rainton Meadows. My quarry, having seen Arctic Redpoll getting on for 40 years ago, was Meally Redpoll.

A slippery, cold and damp trudge to the top of the hill brought me to the now famous feeders and a flock of about 40 Redpolls. I was immediately confident that I had found what I had hoped for. The majority, if not all, of this flock were distinctly grey backed. A flock of 12 then entered stage right as the others disappeared for a quick circuit. All of this smaller flock were very brown, classic Lessers. I watched comings and goings for about half an hour, as the two flocks alternated between feeding and circling. At one point everything disappeared at at rapid rate. A male Sprawk had landed amid the crowd, but I am not sure if it caught anything.

There was one interesting bird that had the brown back and build of a Lesser, but a very pale breast, with just one stripe along the top of the flanks.

I saw no sign of the snowballs, but they had been seen earlier this morning. My distant memory of the Arctic all those years ago was of a bird with a very white background to the streaked mantle. Much whiter than anything that I saw today.

Back at the visitor centre the feeders and tables were quite busy. Three Bullfinches and a pair of Reed Buntings were joined by Great and Blue Tits, singleton Robin, Goldfinch and Blackbird and a Willow Tit exhibiting all of the classical features that distinguish it from Marsh - except it didn't sing for me.

So, a life list at 250 and a British list of 236. Next week I am on leave and my better half and I are heading for West Sussex. Perhaps it will be a little warmer!

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