As the days get shorter and winter starts to kick in and time is spent searching through flocks of wildfowl and gulls in the hope of spotting something scarce visiting the reserve, it’s a bonus to come up with one of our scarcer visiting birds tucked away amongst mobile flocks of finches. A mealy (common) redpoll was discovered feeding with a small flock of lesser redpoll amongst the alders on the riverbank at the side of the footpath towards the coal tips.

The mealy redpoll is slightly larger than the lesser redpoll, a “plumper” paler looking bird with whiter lines on the back and whiter wingbar. It also has a white/greyish rump with short dark streaks. A scarce winter visitor from northern Europe and a bird which can be easily overlooked, so remember to check out any mobile flocks of finches around the reserve, you never know what you’ll find.

Mealy redpoll - Keith Boyer

Coal Tips

The goosander roost has produced good numbers with 72 (18 Nov), 97 (24 Nov) and 104 (26 Nov). Bearded tits are still being seen on the south east lagoon with up to six being recorded on one sighting. Starling numbers have stabilised at between four and five thousand but the murmurations have been fairly short due to the presence of a predating sparrowhawk. Snipe continue to be seen, mainly around big hole, usually tucked away on the raft. A barn owl was seen flying along the river at dusk on 18th November, no further reports since.

Goosander - Pete M

Flashes / Lin Dike

The cattle egret still remains on the reserve and has now been present for fifteen weeks. Up to two great white egrets are still being seen occasionally, they seem quite happy to commute to St Aidan’s and back.

Not much to report on the waders front, up to 17 curlew have been seen, three little egret, a single dunlin was noted on 21st November and an unusual late sighting of a single black-tailed godwit on 27th November.

Little egret - Pete M

Raptors noted have been two peregrine, marsh harrier on 27th November, hen harrier on 30th November and the usual supporting cast of buzzards, red kites, kestrels and sparrowhawk.

Peregrines - Pete M

The resident whooper swan can usually found on either Spoonbill or New Flash. Up to seven pintail have been seen with the odd goldeneye making an appearance, good numbers of wigeon and teal are around as well as a few goosanders.

Three cetti’s warblers were heard around Lin Dike on the 18th November with one being seen along the footpath to the hide zipping from the hedge into the undergrowth. Good sized flocks of lesser redpolls have been noted with 23 and 40 seen in flight around the Lin Dike area, also plenty of redwings and fieldfares in the area.

Goldeneye - Pete M

Main Bay / Village bay

A little gull was reported by visitor on 26th November in the cut lane area, plus the red-crested pochard/tufted duck hybrid is still present. A good count of thirty goosander on 28th November on village bay. Main bay has produced up to twelve pintail, five goldeneye, fifteen whooper swans on 20th November followed by twenty four appearing on 27th November. A juvenile glaucous gull was seen on 19th and 29th November, hopefully the first of many visits of scarce gulls this winter.

Juvenile glaucous gull

The gull roost on main bay held 3000 herring gull and two lesser black-backed gulls on the 27th November with a 1st winter caspian gull making an appearance on the 30th November.

Pick up hide and riverbank trail

A sparrowhawk was seen from pick up hide on 1st December with willow tits making frequent appearances on the feeders. Six siskins were noted along the riverbank trail along with lesser redpolls.

Willow tit - Pete M

Visible migration / overflights

Pink-footed geese continue to be seen over the reserve with skeins of 50 and 60 being seen overhead south.