Tuesday, 21 February 2012

On safari - Redpoll first

After snowy/icy roads & car trouble, our third recent attempt to visit SWT Loch of the Lowes was a successful one in more ways than one. Our Sunday Safari took us to the benches inside the Visitor Centre, at the observation window, where we joined others in watching the very busy feeders outside.

Redpolls were definitely not on my list of expected birds to see on our visit. Their presence was like a gold star for finally making the trip! There was a little snow around the area so perhaps that’s what brought in the Redpolls this bright afternoon.

I had never seen a Redpoll before. Not being a birder I was guessing what bird this was that was sharing a niger seed feeder with a male Chaffinch. Just look a the head size difference below...




My ID guess had been a Linnet (not seen one of them before either). I asked a member of staff and she told me she could see why I guessed that (it was really the red markings I was going with not knowing where they should be).

We were told we were looking at a male Redpoll. We were also told what the female might look like and shown it in a book. Yep... as per usual it would be duller than the male. I didn't expect we would see a female too but as you can see above... some time later we did :-)

Coffee in one hand and video camera on tripod at the ready I always look to catch something different on my visit to this Centre. I was delighted, I’ve also had a bit of fun with my short 2 minute film. Note there is background music as I need to cut the sound of people’s voices. Enjoy…




I’ve looked out this observation window many times but perhaps not during February as winter weather is usually a problem my car journey to the centre. Gosh there were more Chaffinches on Sunday than I think I have ever seen there.

Mallards and pheasants joined the Chaffinches on the ground below the niger seed feeders. Frantic feeding was seen there as well as considerable acrobatic flying from blue, great & coal tits above as my video shows.

Not caught on camera, one amusing moment saw a male Mallard and male Pheasant have a bit of head on squabble. On this visit I was hoping to get some photos & video of the Red Squirrel. Unusually for our visits we never saw a single squirrel.

My next lookout was going to be for the tiny well camouflaged Treecreeper. After capturing images of the Redpoll my eyes turned to one particular tree I have seen them feed on before. I just adore watching this charming little bird but don’t see it on every visit. You need a sharp eye to spot it. However, spot it I did despite the distractions from so many birds at the feeders.

Switching back and forth with still and video camera for the Redpoll, when it came to the Treecreeper it was video footage with better light I was looking for. As Treecreeper viewing time would be short I gave the still camera to my daughter and the girl did good! I caught some video which you can see below too.




The conditions were good for filming despite the usual reflections on the observation window from movement inside the centre. The Treecreeper swooped over to the bottom of a tree trunk from a cut down tree just in front of me and started making its way spirally up it.

I lined up my camera, caught the Treecreeper in the frame and it spent quite a while feeding in the one area. This was brilliant – a good, clear close-up view. I was thrilled.

You can imagine my disappointment then, when I got home and realised that I was too busy enjoying watching the Treecreeper and I hadn’t hit the record button on my video camera… doh! I doubt I’ll ever get quite a view like that again :-(

However, shortly after, the video was recording for view of a Jay feeding at a bird table right in front me. I had never seen that before. Window reflections were more of a problem here, but even so the view of the Jay’s head with eyes and beak were quite a scoop for me. I’ve never seen the Jay so close – what a pretty face it has.

The short video compilation below also shows a capture of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker (my best so far). You can see the difference in size, shape and use of the beaks between the three birds. I always find that fun to watch.




Finally, our Safari quickly concludes with a photo of the female Great spotted Woodpecker that I managed to get, an arty shot of a male Pheasant by my daughter and her quick capture of the Jay on the tree branch just above the bird table.

We hope you enjoyed sharing this trip with us and will consider going on Safari with us again :-)



Quickly, before you go I have a question for you - I’ve asked around and been told it was a Lesser Redpoll we saw. Can others confirm this?


This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in February 2012. The images above were taken on February 19th 2012.

17 comments:

Gerry Snape said...

great post...makes you realise how much you miss the birds in the dead of winter!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I thoroughly enjoyed going birding with you Shirl. Beautiful birds I will probably never see in person. Sigh~~ As to the Redpoll, if I had seen it here I would call it a Common Redpoll even though it is not a common bird to see. We were lucky enough to see one just a couple of weeks ago at a feeder. It was the first time I have seen one so far South. I hadn't seen one for 5 years. So you can tell they aren't common as the name might suggest.

Janet said...

Never seen a redpoll in my life or a treecreeper. I can see why people become twitchers...i stayed at the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle a few years back and peopl were so competative about thebirds they had seen!
Me, i would be so happy to see a kingfisher.
Great post and photos/videos.

shirl said...

Hello everyone, delighted you managed to join us on our Safari :-)

Gerry, thanks! Funnily enough it is at this time of year (especially when it’s cold and horrible outside with wind, rain, sleet & snow) that we see the bird feeders in our garden the busiest and we get new bird species making occasional visits. It’s fun to look out the window :-)

Lisa, so pleased you came with us (perhaps one day you’ll make it over to Scotland). Yes, looking at books and videos online of the Redpoll I had thought it was the Common one or Mealy as I’ve seen it called. Once again across the continents we use the same names for birds (like the Robin) and they are quite different in appearance. That’s fun though :-)

Janet, Yes, pre blog I had never noticed any of the finches and when I saw a Goldfinch for the first time thought – wow! You’ll never guess where I saw a Treecreeper for the first time – The Chinese Hillside at RBGE. Yes, I can slightly get the twitcher thing too although racing many, many miles to write a name in a little notebook not so much. For me, through trying to capture video and photos my eye does tend to spot something it hasn’t seen before and I find that fun. However, not all birds catch my eye – water ones have yet to woe me :-) Now, a Kingfisher I would like to see too. Being tiny they don’t make it easy for us to spot. Once I came across a photographer at the Pagoda of the RBGE Chinese Hillside garden with some major kit patiently waiting to see a Kingfisher that had been spotted in the bottom pool. Don’t know how long he had been there. Lol… I couldn’t see anything that day but always attempt a look every time we visit just in case :-)

Orchids and Nature said...

Lovely footage, is the video taken on a pure H.D.video camera or is it taken on the video function on a still camera?

Crystal said...

That was an amazing safari. I've never seen a redpoll or a tree creeper. But what I would really like to know is, how did you get those birds to feed in time with the music ?

Sue@G.L. Allotments said...

I'd have guessed at a linnet too because of the pinkish head.

We have booked a cottage on the shores of Loch Ness for the end of March and so hope to see some different wild life!

Christina said...

It was great fun to join you on your safari. Your images are amazing, you seem to be so close, I imagine you have a fantastic zoom lens. I love seeing and hearing the birds in my garden but rarely get anywhere near them to take a good photograph. Thanks for sharing. Christina

WisconsinWildMan said...

Was that a Common Treecreeper? It looks a lot like the Brown Creeper we had in our yard last year.

ShySongbird said...

What an exciting safari you had :-) I thoroughly enjoyed sharing it Shirl! I find Redpolls a nightmare especially with Linnets and Twite to muddy the waters too although you are far more likely to see a Twite up there than I am down here. Then there is the Arctic Redpoll which is seen here sometimes too but I think you can rule that out. I am no expert at all but wonder if yours might actually be the Mealy Redpoll. The following might be helpful. You will need to copy and paste it into your address bar, I tried for some time to make it into a link but must have got the HTML code wrong somewhere as it just wouldn't work :-(

http://www.uk400clubonline.co.uk/separation-of-lesser-and-mealy-redpoll/

When you showed the long shots on the video I didn't know where to look first, there were so many birds! What a lovely visit you had.

Great views of the Treecreeper too, I love to watch them, such busy little birds and whenever I see them I am surprised all over again by how small they are in reality.

I haven't seen a Jay for years and never managed to photograph one.

Great stuff, Shirl and congratulations to your daughter for her excellent work with the camera also.

ShySongbird said...

Oh dear! Sorry that was so long.

Midmarsh John said...

Brilliant Shirl. Enjoyed watching the videos. You new camcorder is working well.

Rosie@leavesnbloom said...

Great birding safari Shirl. I had a flock of Redpolls decend on my garden around this time last year while this year I've seen none of them.

shirl said...

Hello everyone, I hope you all had a great week and weekend :-)

David,thanks, being truthful I’m a little disappointed by the depth of colour but filming through glass at an angle is tricky as you’ll know. Footage was taken on a pure HD camera.

Crystal, glad you enjoyed the trip – I’ve a garden tour up next! You’ll need a sun hat for this one :-) Lol… I spend forever and a day selecting the start/ends of my clips and transitions in order that some images hit the beat… by the time I finish everyone in the room is relieved as I run it with sound so often :-))

Sue, I didn’t realise there were different redpolls until I was writing my post and looked at other video captures on YouTube. I emailed the center but they didn’t get back to me so I finally phoned them to be told (as Lisa says above) the common Redpoll isn’t that common and it was a Lesser Redpoll I had seen. Ah… Loch Ness… I might take a guess you could get glimpses of red squirrel and pine marten up that way… don’t hold me to that though ;-)

Christina, glad you could make it with us. Thanks, no my zoom isn’t really that good at all – the action was just a few feet away through the glass! At home I have a close spot by a window for footage too but like you I don’t always get close enough for most of my visitors. I like to try though and crop the images I get :-)

Wisconsin, not sure if this bird is known as the common treecreeper here in the UK. I’m guessing not. Yes, I’ve heard other US bloggers say it looks like your brown one. This one’s species name is Certhia familiaris. Thanks for stopping by :-)

Jan, thank-you it was fun. I know it’s not the real safaris that you have on your walks where you discover so much (my ID skills are not as good as yours) but this place has some family history for me. Wow… thanks for all the info and debate over ID. I’ve since phoned the center and been told it was a Lesser Redpoll I have images of. No probs over long comment, I know how easy it is to do when you don’t weant to leave stuff out. Thanks – I think A did very well with her photos too :-D

John, thanks. I am pleased with my cam but always want a bit more zoom and clarity when filming through glass. I’m sure you know what I mean :-)

Rosie, hello again! Thanks, it was fun. How nice to get a flock of Redpolls in your garden. I’d take a guess they’d come back again if we got a cold snap. Have to wonder if this winter is over for us – you just can’t tell can you. We’ve had a few snowy, cold March’s too over the years. Time will tell :-)

Pauline said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog Shirl, really enjoyed your Safari, I too would have guessed at a Linnet, never seen a Redpoll. A treecreeper was the first bird that we saw in the garden here when we bought the house 21 yrs ago and we reularly have Pheasants, Gt.Spotted Woodpeckers( they come to the peanut feeders) and Jays in the garden.Also regular visitors each day to the feeders are Nuthatches which we think are wonderful.Wish my bird photos were as good as yours!

Sheila said...

Lesser Redpoll. Too small for a mealy; and the colouring's not right.

I haven't been to Loch of the Lowes for ages.

Janet said...

Having just said I hadn't seen a treecreeper i saw onw a day after this post and thanks to you I knew what it was. Heard and saw our first skylarks at St Cyrus las week.