Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Common Redpolls in Middlesex County

Yesterday I birded my local park, with the route that I normally take around its perimeter. As I approached the marsh at the upstream end of the park, I could hear a lot of finch-like chatter, so I paused to see if anything would emerge from the reeds or come down from the treetops. Seeing two small birds on a branch, I raised my binoculars with the expectation of seeing a goldfinch or sparrow. Instead, I saw a beautiful Common Redpoll sitting in front of me. Then I saw a second one nearby. There was other finch-like chatter coming from the reeds and the trees above me, but I could not spot the sources, so it is possible that there were other redpolls with them. Another birder reported seeing three redpolls fly overhead in New Brunswick an hour and a half later. I am not sure whether his were the same as mine or whether there were two separate flocks in the area today.

This was not a life bird for me; however, it was only my second encounter with them and my first in New Jersey. My first sighting was at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in New York. (I learned recently that it was Corey who initially found and reported those redpolls.) This species is also uncommon in my county. According to eBird, reports of redpolls in Middlesex County peak in February, with the most reports in the third week. Common Redpolls appear on 3.6% of eBird checklists during the third week and somewhat fewer in the weeks before and after. Then they are absent for pretty much the rest of the year. There are probably some additional reports that eBird does not pick up. I remember a report of redpolls on a recent Christmas Bird Count that is not represented in eBird's numbers. However, it is safe to say that this is a noteworthy sighting, both for myself and for the county's bird life.