[Tweeters] Redpoll mania! Common & HOARY - LHG-Bellevue

Pterodroma at aol.com Pterodroma at aol.com
Sun Feb 10 18:51:45 PST 2013

10Feb – Wow, what a day once the dense fog lifted and rapidly burned out
after about 1100, yielding to abundant warm sunshine. So much for my
routine target power walk time 2hrs or less; totally wrecked today due to Redpoll
mania; nearly 4 hours(!), including among ~25 Common Redpolls, one very
well seen and marked female HOARY REDPOLL. Today’s Redpoll action unlike
yesterday was concentrated in the clump of 10 very heavily seed catkin laden
white-barked birches located in the SE corner of the Larsen Lake section at
the intersection where the Larsen Lake loop paths fork just north of Lake
Hills Blvd., the white-barked birch cluster obvious right there on the north
and west side of the paths at the fork. Most of the redpolls were firmly
anchored in those trees for at least 4 hours today having first been noted
by a woman (ack, I've forgotten your name already) I met on the Phantom
Lake observation platform when I started at 1130 who had been in the
greenbelt already for 4 hours (mostly in the fog), but was eventually rewarded by
finding the redpolls in the new area here described.
The redpolls scarcely moved at all except once when what before appeared
to be at best 12-15 individuals, suddenly turned into ~25 when a soaring
high-flyer Sharp-shinned Hawk passed high overhead and they all erupted into
flight out of the birches, made a short sortie out then came right back
within seconds. The larder there is much too good to be thwarted by some
little ‘ol Sharpie. That was the ONLY time the Redpolls ever made any noise at
all and even then the characteristic dry rattling seemed barely audible, …or
else my hearing really is getting worse than I thought, but certainly
fainter than what I’m most familiar hearing coming from Pine Siskins, even if
but a handful. Best viewing time window today was 1200 to 1400hrs, with sun
high and bright, and perfectly situated for lighting off the redpolls in
all their subtle glory. While all that was going on, there were still a few
(3-5) Common Redpolls in the same white-barked birch NE of Larsen Lake as
described yesterday, so the grand total at the moment may actually be closer
to 30. The Redpolls are tiny, they’re quiet, and can easily be overlooked
even when you might be looking right at them and not know it.
The presence of a ‘possible’ HOARY REDPOLL has been suspected from the
beginning a week ago, but views and often bad lighting conspired to leave one
suspicious suspect, simply suspect. Today was all different, side by
side with Commons, the female Hoary really does stand out in the crowd;
slightly larger, comparatively obviously paler overall, frostier above,
underparts largely clean and bright with scarcely any streaking at all, pure white
undertail coverts, and the rump strikingly marshmallow white with only the
slightest hint of a few dark flecks at most, no streaks. The rump area was
in fact seen quite well for an extended period of a few minutes when the
bird had it’s back to me and wings held aside when preening. In comparison to
Common’s, the head appears a wee bit bigger or thicker, especially with a
flatter pushed in forehead profile, and although the bill may or may not
have been any smaller, it kind of appeared so but not hugely. Photos would
have saved me from having to write any of this, but the current lack thereof
does offer a challenge for some of you pros with the best of the best
equipment to nail this gal for the sake of King County records since I think
good photo documentation may be most useful here.
It may be a stretch in the department of wishful thinking, but I really
see no reason why these redpolls would want to leave this particular clump of
birches any time soon. It’s by far the best endowed birch stand so rich
and thick with seeds and catkins than anywhere else in the Lake Hills
Greenbelt, and I have eagerly had my greedy little eyes on THIS one particular
cluster with very high expectations since November which up until today had
gone all this time largely and disappointingly untouched by much of anything
other than the occasional juncos, chickadees, and bushtits. Now, the table’
s set and it’s ripe for the pickings, redpolls for days or weeks even I
could hope. But who knows, there’s no guarantees for anything.
Interestingly, no Pine Siskins associated with the Redpolls what-so-ever.
In fact, one flock of ~30 Pine Siskins did arrive during the Redpoll
viewings, but settled in the alders a few feet away on the opposite side of the
path for a few minutes. The Redpolls didn’t even flinch or seem to
acknowledge their presence in any way. After a few minutes, the Pine Siskins
took off in a noisy rush passing right through and over the birches, and
still the Redpolls didn’t even pause from their singularly focused picky eatings
to say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’.
Elsewhere in the Greenbelt, Mary Ann’s Great Horned Owl was spotted just
by sheer luck about a third of the way up in the big thick leaning cedar at
the Phantom Lake Parking Lot, and I would never have seen that at all had
I not been serendipitously standing in exactly the right spot when a ray of
sun just happened to light off the tail and lower belly revealing it’s
presence in there. Otherwise, that bird is next to impossible since the tree
is oriented in such a weird way, thick branches all out of wack in such a
way as to be the perfect hiding place from all angles, even after my
getting down into the brambles and scrambling around circumnavigating the whole
messy thing., and I never could find it again! I know it didn’t fly away; it
just simply became invisible. 44 Ruddy Ducks on Phantom Lake was a few
more than usual, but surprisingly missed was Greater Scaup on both Phantom
and Larsen Lakes. the hybrid male Eurasian x American Wigeon continues on
Larsen Lake, this afternoon again in the company of 15 American Wigeon.
A good day, albeit twice as long than planned, but worth it. 3.6hrs, 42
P.S. Quickest and easiest directions to the birches in seconds. Lake
Hills Blvd between 148th & 156th Ave SE, park behind the Bellevue Boys & Girls
Club (old library) located north side of the street, first building east
of the painted crosswalk. From there the birches are obvious 50 feet to
the west, maybe the redpolls too, and access is the path and the wooden
footbridge over a small canal which then puts you on the Larsen Lake loop trail
in a matter of seconds. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Good luck.
P.S.S. PLEASE, those of you I met and shared time with during the Redpoll
showing, at the birches and the Phantom Lake viewing platform, please
reply to me offline so I can actually enter your names here in my notes.
Richard Rowlett
Bellevue (Eastgate), WA
Pterodroma AT aol.com

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