Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mealy good! 217 species in total

Acting on a nice little snippet of information gleaned from HOSlist, I set off in temperatures of about -4°C at 0830 – it never got above freezing all morning, making this certainly my coldest ride of the year.

I reached Roke Manor (a Siemens research centre near Romsey) in good time for my rendezvous, and successfully met up with Richard Cheater, who had kindly agreed to arrange access to the Manor grounds to see ‘his’ flock of Redpolls.

Very quickly, we located the flock – there were rather more than he had thought! Estimates are always hard, but there had to be 150+ birds present, sometimes giving exceptional views in the trees right over our heads. Nearly all were dull, buffish Lesser Redpolls, but as hoped, there were four or five bulkier, much whiter, bright pink-breasted birds among them, and close scrutiny through Richard’s scope confirmed that they were indeed Common (or Mealy) Redpolls!

This Scandinavian redpoll form has only recently been officially split from the commoner Lesser Redpoll, and it is a very rare visitor to southern England. Indeed, it constituted yet another Hampshire tick for me – a hell of way to finish the serious birding for the year!

Also in Richard’s nice stubbly field were two Stonechats, at least 10 Reed Buntings, a dozen Skylarks and plenty of other finches and thrushes.

Very pleased indeed, we enjoyed a warming cup of coffee at the security desk, and then it was back off onto the icy roads for the one hour burn back to Winchester. Port Lane one more time!