Saturday 13 February 2021


I had a probable (but very distant) Great Grey Shrike near the Model Aircraft carpark just before dark last night, so walked over Woodbury/Colaton Raleigh Commons this afternoon. With snowfall quite heavy at times, and a continuing freezing south-easterly, I was delighted to find this little flock of eight frosty-plumaged Mealy Redpolls, feeding on the ground and resting in what I'd perhaps describe as 'Birch Carr', but that may not be quite the right description.
I'm extremely nervous about identifying redpolls, and may well be wrong with these birds, but all eight are pictured and all eight show plumage features consistent with Scandanavian Common Redpoll,  flammea, as opposed to the British Lesser Redpoll - cabaret. Most notably the face and breast lack the strong orangey wash of cabaret (although at least two birds are a bit more buffy in these areas) and the mantle and scapulars are cold-toned and greyish as opposed to being more brownish (in cabaret). The birds all seemed quite chunky, but I'm not sure to what degree this effect is caused by the birds being puffed out (and one bird is quite chunky-billed).
If anyone is interested in looking for these birds please contact me and I can direct you to where I saw them. I'd also appreciate comments on the identification.
Also this afternoon - female Merlin, 4 Crossbill, 2 Golden Plovers, 2 Dartford Warblers and 2 Ravens.

This is the heavy-billed individual. Note the extent of streaking on the under-tail coverts. Note how white the supercilium and ear coverts are. I'd expect this to be washed orangey-brown on Lesser Redpoll.

Male Crossbill - one of just four this afternoon.


  1. They look good for Mealy to me, several have no hint at all of buff wash as you say. I'd love to check them out on Monday if you could give some directions? My email is

  2. Common Redpolls for me, Matt. No question. So much white ground colour in all those birds. Devon megas, all eight of them! 😄

  3. Excellent work Matt - Agree with Gavin. I was happy with a Lesser Redpoll on the Otter yesterday and you just raised the bar again. 🤣

  4. Matt, I simply can't stop looking at your photos of these eight snowball wannabes. Quite simply stunning, and not at all what we'd expect to see down here in Devon. Ground-feeding too, I always thought if I were to find a Mealy down here it would be whizzing around in alders with masses of other Redpolls and be a pig to nail! Consider me gripped - top stuff!

  5. Good to talk to you yesterday Matt, I just wonder what they would have looked like not fluffed up with feathers flattened, got a feeling most would look much more browny and buffy.. I've been caught out before with a single lesser redpoll resting amongst feeding lessers a very different pale/whitish look. If I had seen your picture of the single bird I would have certainly gone for Mealy!

    1. This is a very good point, and just the kind of cautious approach that I'm not very good at! 😄
      I wish we got more Redpolls to play with down here in the SW, but even where they are far more regular, observers still struggle with them. Hope you get another crack at those birds.

  6. Thank you all for your comments. Time spent watching the birds this morning wasn't terribly helpful. The birds looked cold-toned and whitish in the field but they're different-looking beasts in a couple of the photos. Would be interested in further comments following the latest posts...