Local redpoll interest went up a notch at the end of last week. ‘Blue’ (Pete Wragg) called to say there seemed to be quite a few Mealies amongst a larger flock of Lesser Redpolls at Ulley C.P. I popped along next morning. Good flock of 80 + redpolls. Many Lesser but I reckoned on up to 15 Mealies at least. About 4-6 birds were obvious: stand-out large pale grey lookers. My others were less obvious , subtly whiter eyebrow and rear ear coverts, bit whiter underneath. Though it’s not easy! The redpoll flock was skittish and regularly rearranged itself, so hard to know how often new birds/ or repeat sighting are being recorded. Others only felt happy recording c4 Mealies. As ever with redpolls the problem is degrees of confidence and where to draw the line!
So here’s a proper ‘brown’ Mealy. Trapped by Andrew Chick in his Lincs. garden last Saturday. It’s brown (and the visible red on breast tells you it’s a male)! It also had a wing length of 77 mm.
Here’s a little working hypothesis to help with browner Mealies. Pointed out by Andrew and I agree it may have some merit. Most/many Lesser Redpolls have buffish wash to the undertail coverts which contrasts with whiter ventral region. The undertail coverts can be streaked but it tend to be weakly marked/ harder to see streaks on Lessers. Some appear to have virtually plain buff washed undertail coverts. Even on this brown Mealy however the undertail coverts are white with prominent blackish streaks in the undertail coverts.
Maybe there are more Mealies in that local flock than you thought?
‘Brown’ Mealy Redpoll. Lincolnshire. 29th January 2011. Andrew P. Chick (above 2 photos)
Small patch so white on the forehead, above the eye and rear of the ear coverts may suggest Mealy Redpoll, but they are hardly stand-out features. Very easy to overlook a bird like this. Larger size (of some) might attract attention in direct comparison with a Lesser, but the undertail coverts may provide a useful clue.
Ulley C.P. Redpolls
Here, a couple of Mealy Redpoll from last weekend. These are amoung the group of 4-6 obvious grey type Mealy’s.
And a browner Mealy at Ulley. Subtle pointers include whiter flanks than Lesser, subtle white ‘fan’ around ear coverts, more extensive white over back/rump (which it does a good Arctic Roll impression with when fluffed up) and white undertail coverts with more obvious black streaking than on Lesser. There is more fun to be had with redpolls this winter!