Bearded tits

A small group of birdwatchers have spotted a party of bearded tits by the path to the Reedbed Hide at RSPB Old Moor Reserve. At first I don’t spot them because I’m looking up amongst the seed-heads of the reeds, but they’re down on the ice at the the foot of the stems.

Soon they’re up feeding on the seeds and their colours harmonise perfectly. There are three males with moustachial stripes and three plainer-looking females, or possibly juveniles. I don’t hear any calls, but there’s a busy road not far away, so perhaps I missed the chirrs and pings that are usually the first sign that they’re around.

The lagoon that the Reedbed Hide overlooks is mainly ice-covered. Coot, dabchick, gadwall, mallard and a couple of female tufted ducks are making the most of the open water alongside the far edge. Shovellers are resting close to the reeds.

Ings hide

There’s an even greater expanse of ice over Wath Ings, alongside the River Dearne, with wildfowl confined to a small pool. On the river embankment, wigeon graze alongside Canada geese. A green woodpecker calls from the woods on the far side of the river.

Lesser Redpoll

redpoll
redpoll

The bearded tits were a new bird for me, I’ve looked for them before, but I don’t remember ever seeing them; I certainly haven’t seen them showing as well as they did today in the low winter sunlight. Lesser redpoll is also a new species for me – or at least it is under that name. It doesn’t appear in my older field guides because, when they were published, it was considered a subspecies of the North European common redpoll. It’s now a species in its own right and I like its Latin name, Carduelis cabaret: ‘cabaret’ is the French name for a kind of finch. The word cabaret also refers to a small chamber, so perhaps this was meant to refer to the kind of finch that was often kept as a caged bird at the time the German naturalist Müller gave it its name, in his translation, published in 1776, of  Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae.

Redpolls are happier in the tree-tops, nibbling at birch cones, as the three that we saw were doing today, next to the Visitor Centre at Old Moor, as we made our way out.

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