A local birder reported seeing several Common Redpolls over on Alice Island yesterday. I did not have time to go over there after reading about it, but I did take advantage of some available time this morning to brave the cold weather and look for them.
I parked by the school and walked along the road toward the end of the island. When I reached where the road loops around, I saw a local outdoorsman walking his dog and talked to him for a little bit. He hadn’t seen any Redpolls this year, though told me he has seen them in years past. After visiting, I continued on to the bunker remains at the end of the island without seeing anything along the way other than a few Song Sparrows actively foraging on the abundant alder seeds that were scattered on the surface of the snow.
When I started back from the end of the island, I happened to see a couple of birds in an alder right above me. I realized they were the Redpolls I was looking for. I am not sure if they had flown in while I was out on the rocks enjoying the sun, or if they had been playing a jedi mind trick on me (“these are not the birds you are looking for…”) on my way out. I was eventually able to tease out at least 8 Redpolls from the branches and last years leaves twisting in the breeze.
The birds seemed only mildly concerned about me. If I approached, they would move a short distance away and continue feeding there. They were focusing on the alder seeds, both on the ground and in the trees. Occasionally, a Song Sparrow would chase one off from where it was feeding on the ground. Overall they were fairly quiet, but they did call sometimes, especially when they were flying or one was acting aggressive to another one (though that didn’t happen too much).
I was able to watch them for a half an hour or so, before the cold was getting to be a little much and I needed to get home anyway. On the way back, I saw Marge, Tedin, and Larry walking on the road near the wastewater treatment plant. Marge told me that Redpolls are quite a bit more common in Juneau. We are most likely to see them in Sitka during cold and snow weather, but still never in the numbers that you might find in Juneau.