27 October 2013
Bedgebury and Hemsted ForestsThe weather today was bright and sunny first thing, although the wind was already blowing quite hard. After raking the leaves from the lawn and tidying the garden we set off to Bedgebury Forest for a walk. It was blustery and there were few birds along the rides. A couple of calling Crossbill could not be found and we were soon in the Pinetum. At the western end more Crossbill were heard and we soon tracked the noisy party down, getting some half decent views as the clung on to the top of the tall tree in the gale. All eight appeared to be Commons, though some had pretty large bills - are these birds from further east than we normally experience in the UK? A late Migrant Hawker was hunting along a bank in the sunshine and a Brimstone butterfly was very late.
We worked our way around the whole area finding a few Siskin, Redwing, Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush but no more Crossbill and then returned through the forest. The wind was picking up even more making for an interesting walk under the trees.
As the sun was still shining and Hemsted just up the road I decided to have a 'quick' look for Crossbills. After a brief but heavy shower I made my way to the Oak tree stake out and joined about 15 other birders. A couple of Common Crossbill were sheltering in the Oak but soon departed. Mandy joined me for a while and a flock of about 30 Common Crossbill flew in landing briefly in the pine trees. The male Two-barred Crossbill was quickly located and Mandy enjoyed great looks through the scope. Unfortunately a passing Kestrel spooked the flock and they flew off across the clearing and vanished. We waited for a further half hour. A few Redpoll and Siskin flew over and eventually a couple landed in view. The first was a clear Mealy Redpoll, then a Lesser arrived with a Siskin for company.
After another shower Mandy walked back to the car and I stayed on. Shortly after a juvenile female Crossbill sp arrived in the Oak. It sat right at the top and called incessantly for about five minutes. The call was a Blackbird like 'Cluk - cluk', identical to the distinctive call of Parrot Crossbill on Xeno Canto, yet the bird, while large billed, just didn't convince as a Parrot, and most dismissed it perhaps too quickly - the bills get larger with age, so juvs will always be at the smaller end of the spectrum. As I discussed this with one of the other birders two more female Crossbills flew into the tree and landed alongside - their calls suggested Parrot. One was obscured, but the other looked reasonably large billed. I moved position and got a view of the other female - surely a Parrot, it had a monster bill and the typical bull necked jizz of the species. Just as we started to grill it they took flight heading off as a threesome down the clearing.
They landed halfway down in a small Birch tree and instantly four male birds flew down from the trees at the far end of the clearing, towards the car park. Even from distance they looked good. I grabbed my scope and sprinted down the track past a bemused crowd of birders who presumably had not seen them fly in. I quickly scoped them - Parrots! Seven birds in the group and the males were all stonking great monsters. I shouted to the other birders who soon joined me, then moved closer for a better look. They flicked down and gave great views in the small conifers before dropping to a puddle for a drink, then away to the back of the clearing. Awesome. Unfortunately I'd asked Mandy to take the camera back to the car because of the rain....doh! A great afternoon gaining more experience of these interesting birds.
I have been playing with my video clips and managed to extract some stills via screen shots. First here are some of the male Two-barred Crossbill from yesterday.
And here are some grabs of a couple of interesting looking female Crossbills also from yesterday. Not sure what to make of either. Questioned the first grey headed bird at the time, and tended toward Common for the latter, but interested in any informed opinions. Bizarrely the Parrots last friday and this afternoon were just so obvious - I do wonder if, as is often the case with subtle species, you have to try to make them the rarer species they aren't but if they are you just know it instantly.
|The more you look at Common Crossbills the more challenging they become, yet the Parrots are very obvious when you actually get one. This bird just has me confused?|
|This adult female was seen with a male Common Crossbill. It appeared slightly larger with a deeper bill, but is it big enough? I called it a Common at the time, but if it is then this photo shows just how big billed some of these birds are.|