Took my sandwiches for a walk at the Braid Hills at lunchtime, since it was a nice day. Turned out to be a good decision.
Not only did I add fly-over Grey Wagtail, Collared Dove and 8 Stock Doves to my Lothian year list (about time for these three species!) but I managed to self-find a couple of Lothian life ticks.
Okay, so Nordic Jackdaw is not considered a full species, and I have probably seen it in Lothian already (see here for Lothian possibles and two more definite birds in Galway) - but it has been one of my target subspecies over this winter. The partial collars of both of these presumed monedula can be seen quite clearly here, although they did looked better in real life than in these cropped photos!
Note the 'headlamp' effect when this bird is viewed from the front. This was reminiscent of the Straiton carpark bird in March 2010. Quite possibly today's bird will look even more striking by March as feather wear is likely to enhance the pale collar.
The other Lothian tick was a Mealy Redpoll (right and below) at long, long last. Probably the biggest 'hole' in my county list (still plenty to fill...) - somehow previously I have avoided clapping eyes on a flammea Redpoll in Lothian. In past years most of my Redpoll sightings have been unidentified fly-over birds, or the breeding species, Lesser Redpoll.
With the current invasion of Mealy Redpolls into Britain, on the other hand, I was fairly confident that I could find one within easy walking distance of the house, and sure enough, today I found a small group of Redpolls in trees at the edge of the Braid Hills Golf Course. The first two I looked at were clearly Lesser Redpolls, as they were very brown with strong buff tips to their wing coverts.
The third bird was bigger, paler, with a longer tail and a lovely long primary projection crossing over the tail.
It then moved to another tree and showed nice pale tramlines, bold white covert bars and a strikingly white rump. This is as mealy a Mealy Redpoll as it is possible to get. It is so far along the scale that the potential confusion species is not cabaret Lesser Redpoll but instead exilipes Coues' Arctic Redpoll (see elsewhere on this blog for more about Redpolls).
Of course exilipes can be a difficult form to identify, but in this case the mantle and flank streaking of this bird is too strong and the structure of the bird is better for Mealy Redpoll. Note that the picture on the left gives an inaccurate impression of a small bill - in life the bird had a normal sized and shaped bill for a Mealy Redpoll.
The bird then dived into the centre of a large thick hawthorn and gave a brief view of its nice white rump feathers raised (just visible in picture on left) - a pretty good feature for exilipes perhaps, but in fairness just as good for a male flammea. And then it was gone. Redpolls are like that...