The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Loxia hexadippa


I wanted to do a twitch today, but didn't want to go too far.  I decided on the New Forest, as it's always worth a visit and a Two-barred Crossbill had been newly discovered there.

I arrived at the site north of Lyndhurst a little later than I'd hoped, which was purely down to laziness.  Well, little did I know this would be costly, as I bumped into three guys just leaving, who had seen the bird as it left it's roost. 

I had a good walk round the area, but just came across a small group of 5 Crossbill feeding in a Pine.  It didn't take long for me to realise that the bird was very unlikely to appear any time soon, as it had probably gone off to feed elsewhere for the day.  A couple of Marsh Tit were around.

So, I was eager to at least twitch something successfully, so I thought I may as well go and see the Lesser Yellowlegs down the road at Lepe country park.  Not a lifer, but it was no trouble at all finding on the main pool at Stansore Point, and I enjoyed watching it feeding alongside two Spotted Redshank as well as Redshank for comparison.

A bit of video of it preening, then feeding close-in.

This was another site I had not been to before, and it looked so promising for migrants, what with the pools and scrub.  I have heard though that it's unfortunately under-watched.  The pool at Stansore Point that held the Yellowlegs.

A view offshore to the Isle of Wight.

Looking for birds on the flat-calm sea was hampered by the presence of the Coastguard doing a training exercise.

As the day drew to a close, I thought I'd try something different, and so headed for Slufter's Inclosure, west of the A31.  There had been a possible Parrot Crossbill reported here earlier in the week, so I thought it was worth a go. 
Unfortunately, the place was deadly quiet, though I did eventually find a nice flock of 20 or so Crossbill to scrutinise, to no avail.  Although, I was interested to hear the noise two birds made when they got into a squabble.  It was lower-pitched than their normal call, and not something I've heard before.
Anyway, it was still an enjoyable outing.

I got up early and headed out, cause I had a long drive ahead of me. 

I had finally succumbed to the Two-barred Crossbills in the Forest of Dean, as they appeared to be fairly reliable. 

The trip wasn't brilliant, particularly due to my sat-nav choosing to take me through the centre of Bristol at rush hour, which was not a good move!  Anyway, I got to the car park between Lydney and Cinderford at about 9. 

It was a long trek to the site where they'd been seen the day before, but the place was jam-packed with birds.  I'd never been to the Forest of Dean before, and I can now see why it's so renowned.  There were Siskin, Redpoll, Nuthatch, Brambling, and Jay everywhere, and it was great to see some species I've really missed being on Portland!

I went through the clearing at Crabtree Hill, that until recently held a Great Grey Shrike, though not today.

Without a map, I was largely relying on memory of looking at the area on the internet to get me to the correct area, and this was remarkably successful.  That's more than can be said for the matter at hand though, as in the first hour, I barely saw a Crossbill at all.  Sightings were more prevalent as the day progressed, as I wandered about checking the vast areas of Larch woodland, but still no 2-bars. 
I was delighted to hear two, and see one Willow Tit though, which I was not expecting at all.  Raven were frequent, and a calling Bullfinch in a Larch got my hopes up (the 2-bar call is said to be Bullfinch-like).
I also came across a lot of signs of Wild Boar activity, including footprints and plenty of scuffed-up soil.
After lunch, I checked out some of their former haunts, back at Crabtree Hill, but stumbled only on a ringing operation, which seemed to be targeting Redpoll and Siskin.
I finally gave up as dusk approached, and so concluded my SIXTH dip for Two-barred Crossbill this autumn.  Something tells me I should give up now, but I just don't think I will have a better opportunity to see this species, than this year with so many about!
I did still enjoy the day.  But, imagine my frustration when I found out today that the birds had been seen on the morning I was there.  I'm certain I walked on the exact track as well, only finding a small flock of Commons.

I've got an unexpected day off tomorrow, and I'd like to try for the American Golden Plover in Cornwall, but as it stands, I really don't feel like the long journey!  Maybe I'll do something novel, and try a little Portland birding! ;-)

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