Without snow cover they're harder work, the number of birds this afternoon was much reduced and counting was pretty difficult as they were landing in tree tops and dropping straight into Alder about 5m into the scrub.
I resorted to taking some 'group shots' as they landed hoping to count the Mealies at home and get a better idea of how many there were. Another birder appeared whilst I was trying to get photos and turned out to be Dave Britton from Teeside looking for Arctic Rolls, with the light beginning to drop I headed off home.
Imagine my surprise then when I started looking at the group shots and found this staring back at me.
My gut reaction was this was the palest bird I've seen this winter and had to be Coues' Arctic Redpoll a quick circulation for a few other eyes to sense check it (thanks you know who you are) and it seems Northumberland has its first (mainland twitchable)Arctic Roll since 1996. Not a bad way to start the year.
If you're visiting try and park sensibly as over the past few weeks I've been there the farmer has been up and down the lane with a tractor and it is the main access to many fields. Also take note of the risk of gas explosion and leave the fags in the car.
I must offer apologies to Dave Britton, if I'd known what I had in my camera... and thanks to Nigel for finding the Mealies in the first place.