Highlight of April gardenwatching – Redpolls!

Gosh is it May already? Is it really two weeks since the orange crowns of two small brownish birds were spotted jumping through feeders? At the time, I video grabbed a short piece of shaky footage for an ID and discovered they were Redpolls! Redpolls? I never imagined this was a species that would ever visit my garden and what excitement they stirred.

Winter is a great gardenwatching time for the possibility of new bird species arriving at the feeders. Especially when there is snow. Mixed species flock together and that’s when there can be surprises. Back on April 20th with the snow finally gone and the redpolls too (believed to have been briefly passing through) there was no expectation to see them again. However, just in case, having their favourite nyjer seeds on offer seemed a good plan. Some sunflower hearts were emptied out of one of the feeders. A layer of nyjer seed that covered the top set of feeding ports was added with a final layer of sunflower hearts on top. This black strip of nyjer seed could be easily seen and could potentially attract the Redpolls back. More nyjer seed was sprinkled in the feeder spill trays. It was worth a try.

Siskins can be classed as one of the ‘usual suspects’ in my garden bird community. I’m pretty confident many other species have followed them to my garden – most likely the Redpolls too. Siskins favour sunflower hearts here and with the feeder newly filled up it the male Siskin in the video below wasn’t interested in looking for other food – but what was I seeing now? I’ll let the series of very short videos below (all but one with background music) introduce our newest, now regular garden visitors. I wonder how long they will stay for this time.

The first video below is of a male Redpoll & male Siskin. This is the first garden sighting of male Redpoll (Lesser). It is seen eating nyjer seed scattered in seed collecting tray. The nyjer seed was put there only a short time before. The Siskin gets spooked and leaves but after a quick look around the Redpoll continues to eat. Seen on April 20th 2013, video taken indoors through window.

The next video is of a male Redpoll (Lesser) at garden feeder trying the sunflower hearts. This bird stayed all afternoon and into the evening being the last to leave at 7:30pm. I’ve noticed this before, that new visitors stay late watching over the garden long after the crowds leave. I wonder if he roosted close-by as he was seen again early the next morning. How pretty he looked in the late evening sunshine. Seen on April 20th 2013, video taken indoors through window.

Siskins pair with female Redpolls (Lesser) are up next. On a dull day the bright yellow the male Siskin brings colour to the feeders. The female, being paler goes a little more unnoticed – just like the brownish female Redpolls. Redpoll ladies were often seen dining together but not this time – there’s plenty of room and food at the table for both of them too. Is there some jealousy or competition over feeding with the Siskin pair? Seen on April 21st 2013, video taken indoors through window.

Next it’s the tricky identification between the female Redpolls at the small nyjer seed feeder. ID’s between Lesser & Common (or Mealy) can be hard with so many differences in colouring and size especially at this time of year. Especially if you are new to this species as I am. I’m guessing the female in front is a Lesser Redpoll but the female behind appears to be larger – could she be an uncommon, Common Redpoll? Seen on April 26th 2013, video taken indoors through window.

Gusts of strong winds didn’t deter this female Redpoll (guessing Lesser) next. She just kept on eating. I loved this capture where she looked like she was on a theme park ride! We’ve had a few very windy days since the Redpolls arrived. Not surprisingly she was the only diner at the garden feeders at the time. Seen on April 28th 2013, video taken indoors through window.

This next video of a female Redpoll (Lesser) was an outside recording. As the garden was quiet, this female was in no hurry as she dined on nyjer seeds. Note what little colouring is seen in this view – she could almost go unnoticed at garden feeders. At glance she may even be considered looking like a female House Sparrow. Seen on April 30th 2013, video taken outside with small waterfall trickle in background.

Next up is as a couple of Female Redpolls (Lesser). Looking very pretty and serene in the sunshine (with their orange crests) these ladies doing lunch look very polite and well mannered – until it comes to vacating their table for other diners. Seen on May 1st 2013, video taken indoors through window.

Male Redpoll gets dive bombed by female. Redpolls have definitely taken ownership of the small nyjer seed feeder and some females seem to think it’s a ladies only diner! Here a male is seen happily eating when he notices something above… an incoming female diner. Seen on May 1st 2013, video taken indoors through window.

Goldfinches very much enjoy nyjer seed too. Next is one seen feeding with a male Redpoll (Lesser). Once the arger Goldfinches discovered these feeders the debate with Redpolls began! Here there is harmony and the male Redpoll stayed a while. Seen on May 1st 2013, video taken indoors through window.

So there we have it, the highlight of April gardenwatching has moved into May as Redpolls continue to visit daily. How brilliant is that? It’s hard to say exactly how many individuals are currently visiting the garden but I might guess at least three males and possibly four females.

I contacted the helpful peeps at the Birdforum asking opinions on ID to be told, with so many variances in colour and size (including cross breeding in Scandinavia) it can be difficult to say for sure if any birds visiting my garden have been Common Redpolls. They are probably all Lesser Redpolls (I’m not complaining at that). Although I must admit to always being keen on the right ID, I’m delighted enough that we have a variety of Redpoll garden visitors and they have certainly been keeping me entertained.

So Redpolls are possibly the new Siskins arriving in our gardens? I’m fairly confident there will be data around the UK to support this in the not too distant future. I’m sure I read something somewhere about this whilst searching for confirmation on ID’s for the birds currently visiting my garden.

Now… the big question to end this post has to be… has anyone else seen Redpolls visiting their garden feeders? Perhaps you want to take a good look at the image above and view through all the videos above to get a good feel for this bird in different light levels. It could be visiting your garden on dull days and you haven’t noticed it. I really, really don’t expect that I’m the only one.

Oh yes… and to all the reviews on nyjer seed feeders that state they are a waste of money… I bought my feeder shown above from my local RSPB Visitor Centre shop (I’m sure it is available many places online). I spent just £3.99 for this mini feeder that was full of seed too. I did make one amendment and that was to remove the flimsy hook and replace it with a cable tie and it withstood some serious winds! I guess you just need the right birds to visit to ensure it is used and they are… REDPOLLS!!!! Siskin’s and Goldfinches were only seen using this feeder after the Redpolls were using it and that was within and hour of it being put up 🙂

Enjoy the rest of your weekend (it’s a Bank Holiday one in the UK). I’ve been enjoying getting back in to my garden. I actually like weeding although I absolutely love moving my plants around in my borders! Have you had new bird visitors or managed to get out into your garden this weekend? I’m adoring my native primroses coming into flower in nice sized drifts 🙂

Oh… one final piece of gardenwatching news… it doesn’t look like we will have any nesting action in our nestbox with camera for 2013. We currently have a rooster Blue tit but no nest building so I suspect this is a male. However, I do know of two bloggers who do. Pop over to MIDMARSH JOTTINGS to see nesting birds in a Camera Nestbox (currently with 8 Great tit eggs) where there is Live Streaming when available (normally 7am to 10pm local UK time) or the 2013 nestbox diary at Joe’s Wildlife Garden (last reported with 5 Great tit eggs). Enjoy following their nestbox families and seeing the action from inside 🙂

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2013.

8 thoughts on “Highlight of April gardenwatching – Redpolls!

  1. What a co-incidence as we have had a pair of redpolls too for the first time. We also have had siskins a few times when they have been very occasional winter visitors in the past

    We put our niger in ordinary seed feeders and the redpolls were on that. We tried the mini RSPB feeder and nothing used it.

    As you found the siskins do eat niger but seem to prefer the sunflower hearts.

    Martyn shot a video of the redpolls with their feathers blowing in the wind.

    A great spotted woodpecker which has previously been seen in the garden has visited a few times too.

    Also like you our nest cans are uninhabited! I wonder if food is scarcer in 'the wild' this year.

  2. Wow, those Redpolls must be a bit of a treat. Like a lot of British birds, you have to get views as good as you've been getting in your garden to realise how colourful they really are. A lot of birds like that tend to look very sparrow-like at a distance. Hope they stick around in your garden, it certainly seems as though they are so far.

    We've yet to have any in our garden back home. But then we don't regularly get Siskins either (only odd sightings here and there over the last few years), so maybe when we start to get Siskins more regularly, other things might follow.

    Also, thank you very much for the mention about my camera nestbox diary! Should be another update on that today if I get the time. Unlucky that your camera nestbox doesn't seem to have any residents moving in, although it must be nice to see that male Blue Tit roosting overnight. Interesting that it's May now and he's still roosting overnight. I wonder if he'll carry on roosting throughout the summer?

  3. What excitement to have redpolls at your feeder. I would probably faint if I looked out and saw one. 🙂 Enjoy the surprises of spring.

  4. Hello again everyone, I can see you all understand the delight this new visitor was 😀

    Sue, I’m disappointed I missed Martyn’s post with news of your Redpolls. As I said above we have Siskins pretty much all year now and are fortunate to see juveniles in the garden too. Yes, in the past I have tried other Mini nyjer feeders unsuccessfully too – I have been thrilled this one has been a success but had heard many saying not. Ah… perhaps I’ll put out some fatcake in a quiet place to see if Woodpeckers will return here too. Ah… shame to hear about empty nestboxes with you too. Perhaps you have something on scarce food after the prolonged cold spell with you. Here, the weather can be like that so not a huge amount of change. Interesting thought though.

    Joe, they really were! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and was pretty sure I couldn’t be the only one seeing this so was delighted to hear Sue above has seen them too. Absolutely, re more too our little brown birds. Perhaps Siskins will get to your garden too, they do seem to be learning it’s a good source of food. You’re welcome on the mention of your nestbox. It’s nice to hear technology is helping you keep up with action when you are away from home. Dropbox has to have some good uses like this. I’m pretty sure our male rooster will be in our box all summer – we had that last year. I have a theory that they are taking residence to stop another family moving in and the parents taking food away from his family which I suspect is close by. That’s’ my theory anyway 🙂

    Lisa, that was a brilliant weekend as we got more and more sightings of the Redpolls as the hours went on. They certainly were a surprise and I am enjoying Spring and my garden plants coming to life too – thanks, wishing you many Spring surprises too 😀

  5. I think there were redpolls at my feeders for the first time just today! At first I thought they were house finches, but the color was not right – too red. I enjoyed all your videos.

  6. Well, what exciting visitors to have in your garden Shirley, well done! 🙂 I have definitely never seen them in mine but have seen them in mixed finch flocks in the wild of course. Only ever managed distant photos though. I have seen them in the gardens of several of my fellow birding bloggers too, all fairly rural gardens I think or at least those with mature native trees nearby.

    I enjoyed all your videos and the collage too. I was completely thrown by the one with the orangey cap as I had never come across that before but looking it up I see it is not completely uncommon. Some think it may be a first winter bird but diet has also been offered as an explanation, fascinating! As for distinguishing between the Lesser and Common…definitely tricky! 😉

  7. Hello again to you both. I hope you are both enjoying seeing your gardens come to life just now with flower colour and nesting bird activity 🙂

    Jason, great to hear you’ve been seeing the Redpolls too. I’m delighted that you viewed my videos 🙂

    Jan, they certainly were exciting to see – I couldn’t believe my eyes and the first thing I thought of was that it wasn’t snowing so perhaps they might come back – what a delight that they did! Yes, I’m seeing them on other blogs myself too. Delighted again that you viewed my videos, I always have fun capturing the footage looking for something slightly different each time. You get lucky moments like the long preening session of the Pied Wagtail back when the snow was here. Yes, the orangey cap caught me too – I browsed many images and videos where I found them there too. Yep… I hit the forums for the common and lesser issue and it is definitely a tricky one.

  8. Finally doing a catch-up Shirl. Lovely photos and videos of the Redpolls. You are getting to see a good variety of bird life visiting your garden.

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