[Tweeters] LHG Bellevue - Feb2013 - abridged - Redpolls

Pterodroma at aol.com Pterodroma at aol.com
Fri Mar 1 04:07:21 PST 2013

Lake Hills Greenbelt (LHG) Feb2013 summary report posted to Tweeters early
last night was too long (4,573 bytes over the 20KB default limit) and
awaits moderator approval. Maybe to be approved and post later, maybe not. In
the meantime and cutting to the chase, REDPOLLS in particular and likely
of greatest interest, here's a severely clipped version:

February and month of the winter's long awaited, anticipated, expected,
COMMON REDPOLLS! Well earned too, 3 months of eager anticipation, high
expectations, sorting through literally tens of thousands of Pine Siskin 'units'
all that time (what a waste!), only to find the Redpolls not only NOT
associated with Pine Siskins at all, but never even sharing or showing any sign
of interest in the same trees (alders), instead the white-barked birches
which conversely and conveniently, the Pine Siskins never seemed to have
much use for. Since early November, I was telling folks, "any day now, any
day, Redpolls any day". November came and went; nothing, oh well. Then
December, nothing; surprised and disappointed. Then January, none again; me
getting quite bummed now but not giving up. Then February, maybe last
chance, and Eureka(!), and the big nearly month long run was on and some may
even continue into March; time will tell.


total days & walks -- 24
cumulative walk time -- 49.9 hrs
average walk time -- 2.1 hrs
cumulative species 'units' -- 995
average species / walk -- 41.4 (high: 47 on 18Feb, low: 35 on 14Feb)

total species = 74 (cumulatively 103 species [119 walks] since Oct 1,
2012, 84 species for the year). Only those recorded in February are listed
below. One hybrid and one unconfirmed interesting 'suspect' below listed but
NOT included in the species total. ....The number following each species
represents the number of walks on which a species was detected....

...cut the list...

COMMON REDPOLL -- 12 (see comments below)
**[Hoary Redpoll ?] -- 1-3+? (unconfirmed, see comments)
Pine Siskin -- 24 (see comments below)


Common and [Hoary?] Redpoll -- substantial flock of up to 40 (more
commonly 15-30) Common Redpolls maintaining remarkable feeding fidelity to one
particular cluster of white-barked birches on the SE side and another single
white-barked birch on the NE side of Larsen Lake 04Feb thru at least 26Feb
were seen and enjoyed by many birders coming and going through this period.
Most reliable during the first half of this viewing window but much more
irregular and flock size diminished thereafter.

One suspicious suspect individual, a female, tended to stand out from the
crowd and was thought to be a good or even likely candidate Hoary Redpoll.
As of this writing, I'm still pondering the matter, but photos are either
lacking or inconclusive. So far, at least 8 birders including myself (3
independent parties) that I know of, maybe more, have seen such an
individual (especially Feb 10, 11, and 13 and some curious suspicions before and
after those dates) and some have followed up with some pretty good written
accounts of a redpoll thought to fit the prescribed parameters meeting those
for Hoary. For me personally, and leaning now more to the side of extreme
conservative caution, and due the lack of indisputable photos in addition
to more corroborating observers of known repute and experience, the bird is
presently relegated to 'suspect' but unconfirmed, thus NOT included on the
list or any list other than as in the manner presented here. IOWs, rule of
thumb #1, if but the slightest inkling of doubt for whatever reason(s),
just leave it out. Others may disagree and that's fine. As things stand now,
whether it could pass the record's committee smell test, I'd think
doubtful and for reasons I likely would understand and agree even as I am not
connected to such in any way.

My posting on Feb 10 which first raised the 'alert level' and hopes of
many was as to the best of my ability, honest and objective, picking away
piece by piece why that particular 'redpoll' did not exactly fit right as a
more likely and presumed Common. Had that bird with wings drooped to the
sides not shown off the strikingly all white unstreaked rump in a sustained
full-on view manner for several adrenalin rushing seconds and viewed by 4 of
us, I'm sure it would have most likely simply been dismissed as an
interesting but unusually pale looking likely Common Redpoll. My sincere thanks to
everyone who gave it their best. Feb 10th, I was quite convinced and with
a flock of redpolls seemingly fixated on just a few same birches, I really
thought that bird would be in the bag come Feb 11 or soon thereafter,
photos in the can, sealed and delivered, no indifference. Alas, that was not
to be; poor lighting, birds typically high against endless bright gray
overcast skies day after day, made even good viewing the Common Redpolls a bit
of a challenge more often than not.

Here's a series of 4 images documenting a very pale/frosty (too
pale/frosty?) Utah Hoary Redpoll in early Feb 2013, images of the like which I can
say without doubt the LHG 'suspect' definitely was NOT ---
Click/see: _Hoary Redpoll - Utah-Feb2013_

Pine Siskin -- The unbroken streak continues as Pine Siskins were easily
found and recorded on all 24 February walks, and to date ALL 119 walks now
since October 1. February numbers continue to decline but still holding in
the daily 100-200 range, but certainly far below the peak in December when
amazing swirling megaflocks were often the norm, some days back then
numbering from 1500-2500 at a pop. Through this entire Oct thru Feb episode, the
Pine Siskin has been the favorite and almost exclusive easy prey target
for a Merlin breakfast, lunch, anytime snack. Most of my February Merlin
sightings were at the peril and even expense of yet another Pine Siskin (2
kills observed and many other chases). It is the abundance of alders
scattered throughout the greenbelt upon which the Pine Siskins feed exclusively
that keeps them firmly in place. Not the intermingled white-barked birches
at all -- those are reserved for the Redpolls, literally! The Pine Siskins
routinely swarm through the alders from catkin to catkin like leaves
rustling in the wind and they also like just creeping about picking at the
branches, bark, and mossy bits up there.

A few turn up grounded from time to time, culled from the flock and likely
sick with salmonellosis, and just left for nature to take it's course.
Nature did take it's course in one very weird way back in December, back when
the Bellevue Parks folks were resurfacing the gravel paths. One morning I
found a dead Pine Siskin smashed flat as a piece of paper on the path,
having been I guess 'road-killed' by the little golf cart sized
mini-steamroller used to compact the gravel.

Richard Rowlett
Bellevue (Eastgate), WA
Pterodroma AT aol.com

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