23 November 2013
Ever since I saw the Parrot Crossbills in Hemsted Forest I have wanted to get a really good photo. Either events or dull weather have made it difficult, but this morning the sun was due to shine and with no news of the birds all week I thought it would be perfect as I would likely have the place to myself. I arrived about 08:00 and found just a single dog walkers car in the layby. I wandered out to the far end of the clearing and found a good spot to stand, not too far from the Oak tree, with a little cover and the sun behind me. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. It was freezing cold with a sharp northerly breeze, but the sun on my back kept me warm. And then the thick cloud arrived - it was cold.
I stood listening, waiting the distinctive 'chipping' of Crossbills. In the distance a distinctive call, but surely not. It sounded like the 'Cronk' of a Raven? There it was again, and a second - two Ravens were flying out of the woods and heading east. I got brief views as they came over the clearing. Superb! A few Fieldfare, the odd Redwing and several Bullfinch flew over. Later a couple of Siskin and both Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker were also heard. Several flocks of Woodpigeon flew north over the woods.
|Female Common Crossbill|
At 09:30 the first flock of eight Common Crossbill came in high and landed in the top of the Oak Tree. I checked them all and grabbed a few images. They flew off not stopping for a drink. Another half hour passed and four Common Crossbill flew in. They landed and seemed to enjoy the sunshine. About ten minutes after they arrived a single Cossbill flew in to join them. Initially out of view I soon had it in the scope - a superb first winter male Parrot Crossbill (I'm assuming it was a first winter as it had noticeable wing bars on the greater coverts). It gave reasonable views but always the wrong side of the tree. The flock flew down to the track below and drank from the puddles below the tree then flew back up to preen. I managed to move position and grabbed a couple of images before they flew back into the woods, though my digi-scoping camera decided to play up at this moment.
I re-positioned and waited. I caught a glimpse of a falcon which disappeared into the trees. Moving slightly I found it sat high up on a branch - an immature male Peregrine. Incredible to see Ravens and a Peregrine in a woodland clearing in the heart of Kent - just ten years ago this would have been incredible.
|Peregrine - very cropped|
|The Parrot returns|
|A digi-scoped shot for comparison|
A flock of about 20 Common Crossbill flew into the Pine trees behind the Oak and the Parrot flew over to join them as they dropped down to the puddles for a drink, then flew back into the woods to the west. A Common Buzzard circled overhead.
|The obligatory Great-white Egret|