Sunday, 27 October 2013

Pining for the fjords

The offer of a lift to Kent on Saturday with Steve Smith was too good to miss as three species of Crossbill - Common, Two-barred and Parrot - had been visiting the same clearing in Hemsted Forest. There had been as many as twelve Parrot Crossbills at this site the previous week, and I figured the chance of all these Scandawegian monsters being struck down by Sparrowhawks or Merlins or cats or windmills was pretty slim. Robust logic, and perhaps they were just pining for the fjords and heading back home, but either way we didn't see them.
Two-barred Crossbill, Hemsted Forest
Fortunately the Two-barred performed brilliantly, returning on several occasions to an oak tree preferred by the local finches as a lookout near a favoured drinking pool. Scope views were excellent and while it was a little distant for good photos I was able to get some record shots and therefore a 'photo tick' as it perched in the bare branches. We also heard its higher pitched call when in flight with the rest of the flock.
There was a bit of inter-action between the Two-barred and a female Common Crossbill - but it looked more like aggression than flirtation
One Parrot Crossbill was in fact reported before we arrived, and another from another part of the wood while we were there, but the only parrots we saw all day were the gullible birders repeating directions to alleged Parrots which were, in fact, Common Crossbills. Ironic really that they went away happy with a 'tick' having seen nothing out of the ordinary, while we went away a little frustrated at seeing exactly the same thing.
The Common Crossbill below the Two-barred in this shot was claimed by some as a Parrot. The Two-barred did look a shade smaller, but still...
Despite the absence of Parrots it was a good opportunity to study size and plumage variation in Common Crossbills, which were plentiful and gave excellent views. As well as them, Redpolls, Linnets, and even a Brambling came and went to the oak so no complaints about the day overall. If the weather forecast is to be believed, we'll all be watching Crossbills picking cones off trees at ground level by Monday night. So that's something to look forward to.
Flight shot revealing the full wing pattern

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