Sunday, 29 December 2013

29th December 2013 Broadwater Warren RSPB

Crossbill 12
Redpoll c.10

Ashdown Forest at sunset

Saturday, 28 December 2013

28th December 2013 Broadwater Warren RSPB

Crossbill c.20
Redpoll c.15

Friday, 27 December 2013

26th December 2013 Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest

'Glip' Common Crossbill c.25
Parrot Crossbill 9
Redpoll c.10
Brambling 1
Towards the end of another day spent at Old Lodge watching Crossbills (all of which that were successfully sound-recorded proved to be ‘Glip’ type Common Crossbills) we briefly saw two female Crossbills that appeared large-billed feeding in the tops of some Scots Pine at around 2pm. After obtaining some brief video they appeared to drop lower into the tree but out of sight. For the next 30 minutes we waited but failed to see them again so we decided to walk into the area of Scots Pine in the hope of relocating them on the other side of the tree. Around 50m from our original position we found a huge-billed male Crossbill that was surely a Parrot preening atop a Scots Pine. A Redwing was seen sat atop a nearby tree and there appeared little difference in size. A few DSLR images were obtained before that Crossbill soon flew but we then became aware of a number of other birds quietly feeding in the same tree – we had stumbled across a discrete flock of nine large-billed brutes feeding on closed cones in Scots Pines... Despite variation in bill size they all appeared large-billed and the birds themselves all struck us as large and chunky, often appearing bull-necked. They fed by snipping-off the cones, briefly holding them aloft in their bills and were then held by foot as they extracted the seeds. For the next fifteen minutes we obtained as many images, videos and a sound-recording before they simply ‘melted away’ into the trees behind. We then searched for them until just before sunset with unfortunately no further sign. Returning home to still no power to the phone lines and therefore no email or internet and associated computer problems we attempted to view the images and videos on three different PCs with limited success! With the power kindly restored by BT today, here are the best:
A welcome start to our day soon after dawn on Ashdown Forest

Adult male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Our first views of a male - huge-billed with ivory-coloured cutting edges and the tip of its upper mandible only just projecting beyond its lower mandible. Despite sat alone, in lacking a pronounced forehead, being deep-breasted and long-winged it immediately appeared a large powerful brute
Adult male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Its bull-necked appearance formed by a greyish ruff
Adult male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Despite photographed looking-up at the bird its bill still appears almost as deep as it does long. Its overall large proportions make it appear ungainly
Male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
A second male, but again with a bulbous, swollen and blunt-tipped bill
Female Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
As would be expected, not as huge-billed as a male, but a bulge is visible to its lower mandible giving a S-shaped profile.  Its grey head, neck and nape are all characters also often associated with Parrot Crossbill
Female Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Unhelpfully facing away but still portraying its large-headed and bull-necked appearance
Male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Lower mandible broadening at its base
Male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
At some angles the impression was of a bill profile reminiscent of a Shovel-billed Kingfisher!!
Female Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Not quite head-on as sketched by Graham Catley in BB 78: 497 but sharing the flat crown, wide forehead, full cheeks, bulging neck and therefore strong thickset appearance…

Female Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
…and now looking even larger-headed and front-heavy and flat-crowned with a broad-based bill
Male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest (JFC)

Male Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
First-winter male Parrot Crossbill (different individual) at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Male and female Parrot Crossbills at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
Sonogram (above) from the sound-recording of a Parrot Crossbill at Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest
The birds were feeding rather silently in the tops of the Scots Pine. On a single occasion three took flight and uttered some calls that to us sounded similar to Crossbill. However, a sonogram of three recorded calls (the third is obscured by the first vertical band of noise) shows them to be of a distinctly different shape to the tick-shaped ‘Glip’ type Common Crossbills recorded at Old Lodge in recent days. Whilst we are no experts in producing or analysing sonograms, if the calls recorded were indeed ‘flight calls’ as we believe, they appear a very close match to both the frequency and shape with those detailed from Parrot Crossbills in a. (see below) being from Magnus Robb’s Dutch Birding article
For birders wishing to look for these birds on this Sussex Wildlife Trust Reserve it is requested they park in the large car parks located to the north and south of the reserve rather than in the reserve's very small car park. Please keep to the circular nature trail to avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds already forming their territories especially in the more open heathland areas. There is also a restriction on dogs that from what we recall is effective from 1st January.
The birds themselves were seen in the Scots Pines to the west of path where the small stream cuts across reached by walking north along the eastern perimeter for c.300m (the area frequented by the Little Bunting a few years ago). They moved off west. Almost certainly the same flock of nine birds were briefly seen in the same area on the 20th December. In recent visits we have also seen and sound-recorded 'glip' Common Crossbills in that and many other areas of the reserve.
With plenty of Scots Pine cones still present on the trees the Loxia bonanza will hopefully continue...
Approaching sunset at Old Lodge
Nice to see the sun again after so much rain and disruption!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

22nd December 2013 Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest

Redwing 20
Fieldfare 10
Brambling 1
Common Crossbill c.15

'Glip' Common Crossbill recorded at Old Lodge, Ashdown
Flight calls by one or two males recorded at Old Lodge. With two males alighting in nearby trees it was possible to record their calls. Sonograms reveal an identical match to 'Glip' Common Crossbill (see Sonogram 11 d below) that Martin Garner states is the commonest vocal type in the UK

Sonograms of 'Glip' Common Crossbills from Dutch Birding article by Magnus Robb
Nils Van Duivendijk states at least six types are distinguishable on basis of voice and bill structure possibly representing a cluster of cryptic species. Magnus Robb considers 'Glip' Common Crossbill is one of the two most commonly heard Crossbill vocalisations in northern Europe

Friday, 20 December 2013

20th December 2013 Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest

Coal Tit 2
Redwing 40
Fieldfare 10
Woodlark 1 singing!
Brambling 10+
Redpoll 15
Parrot Crossbill 10 (7 males & 3 females)
Common Crossbill c.5

Female Common Crossbill at Old Lodge

Saturday, 14 December 2013

14th December 2013 Princes Park, West Rise & Exceat

Black-throated Diver 1 juv.
Smew 1 drake at West Rise
Caspian Gull 1 first-winter at Exceat

Juvenile Black-throated Diver at Princes Park

First-winter Caspian Gull at Exceat Bridge