Sunday, 24 November 2013

Two-barred Crossbill finally bagged!!

Another Sunday was upon us and there was only one place to go Coldharbour Cricket Club Leith Hill Surrey. Would the Two-barred Crossbill grace me with its presence! This was to be my ninth visit and fourth full days stake out but would my efforts be rewarded!

The weather was cloudy and the wind was slight but chilly. As I walked past the pavilion a group of eleven crossbill flew towards me but changed direction on seeing me and disappeared out of sight. Oh no that was bad timing! As a result of the flock deviation I tucked myself well away from the pond and the now famous oak trees and hoped the flock would return!
(Two-barred Crossbill)
I waited for around an hour and fellow birder “Dougal” joined me in what was turning out to be a regular meet at this site. Within around fifteen minutes I saw a small group of Crossbill in the pine opposite the pond. I didn’t see them arrive but began checking each bird through my telescope. Then a female bird turned sideways and “Yes!!” there were two distinct white wing-bars. I got Dougal onto the bird and I then rattled off a heap of pictures trying to contain my excitement as I did so. The bird then dropped down towards the pond out of sight. The flock re-grouped and headed towards Dukes Warren with the Two-barred en tow.
(Two-barred Crossbill)
A few handshakes later and I said my farewells to “Dougal” who explained that he gained the nickname from the magic roundabout. Couldn’t see the likeness myself but we were both happy that this elusive bird had finally been bagged!
(Great Northern Diver)
My next port of call was Papercourt GP’s where a Great Northern Diver had been present for around two weeks. I had seen a few in Surrey but had heard this bird was quite obliging in front of the camera. I was not disappointed after a walk to the far end of the main pit the bird came within ten metres of the bank and once again the camera captured the moment.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Crossbill Crazy!!

These days birding time is limited and as predicted the Two-barred Crossbill was seen midweek and Saturday at Leith Hill Surrey. The weather forecast predicted fog early morning clearing by 10am then the remainder of the day would by almost wind free with low cloud.

I headed for the Cricket pavilion which seems to be the most regular spot for this bird. On arrival there was a flock of c25 Common Crossbill at the small pond a few had been caught in the mist nets set up at the location. Sam Bailey and Paul Stephenson were busy removing the birds from the nets. The birds were then taken and processed before release.
(Crossbill Male)
I was grateful to Sam and Paul for taking the time to explain the difficult process of ageing young Crossbill. The birds were measured, photographed and then released.  I would not have a better opportunity than this to photograph this species.
(Crossbill Female)
At this time there had been no news of the Two-barred Crossbill but it transpires the bird had been seen earlier on in the day. I returned to the pavilion to stake out the area for the remainder of the day.
(Common Crossbill)
There seemed to be more Crossbill in the area today, this may have been due to the weather conditions which were making it easier to locate the flocks. Two flocks were seen during the afternoon one containing 21 birds stopped off in the Oak trees above the pond. Another flock of 13+ birds flew across the open area behind the pavilion.

Circumstances had conspired against me once again. The hill was fog free early am and the Two barred did not return to the pavilion! However I saw the processing of net caught Crossbill and took some crippling pictures of birds in the hand! That was worth the trip alone. Roll on next weekend and favourable weather conditions!!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Anyone for Cricket!!

(Coldharbour Cricket Pitch)

The Two-barred Crossbill had been seen Saturday afternoon at Leith Hill Surrey. This bird is not easy to connect with having tried several times recently. But it still remains a Surrey VC tick for me therefore some more effort was required if I was going to add it to this list!

I got up at stupid o'clock to make it to Leigh Hill for dawn. The weather was going to be sunny with a brisk NW wind which was encouraging. There had been rain the day before which would mean plenty of puddles for thirsty Crossbill to drink from. Would this be the fly in the ointment with so many options open for them!

There was a surprising amount of Pheasant and a few Red legged Partridge along Coldharbour Lane. I later learn't there was a shoot and birds had been released for this purpose. No wonder they were keeping their heads low!
(Cricket Pavilion)
On arrival I staked out the area around the cricket pitch but only heard a couple of single Common Crossbill flying over. The wind was beginning to bite so I decided to go for a walk to warm up. I made my way through the gate and down towards post G on the green trail. As I did so I heard a Firecrest calling from the scrub. I went in search of this bird sneaking around only to realize it was a recording having come across a run of mist nets!! Back to the Crossbill hunt then!

The remainder of the morning was spent staking out various points in the area. There was a large movement of Wood Pigeon in the area along with several other regular species. I returned to the car having covered the area. At around mid-day a few more birders turned up...Had there been news!

Another wander around the area later it was time to depart empty handed! Well I didn't expect it to be easy as the area is vast and the regular points this bird is seen is all part of a bigger circuit for it! No doubt it will be seen in the week when I'm at work but hey thats birding for you!!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Needle in a Haystack!

Having spent the last couple of weekends completing the Laguna Blanca systematic list it was time to re visit the Farm and carry out a Timed Species Count. There was a SW blow today so I decided to start at the lakes. I got blown around, I then took shelter in the hide with Bulldog.
The only bird of note was a Pintail which was on the North Lake. Pyro joined us in the hide when news broke that the Two Barred Crossbill was present at Dukes Warren Leith Hill Surrey. Opportunities had been limited with this species and it would be another week before I could get out to look for this Surrey Vice County tick.
(Great Cormorant)
After the briefest of conversations and abandonment of the last two area counts, I was off to the car to try to connect with this bird.
(Leigh Hill)
I knew the odds were stacked against me, the area is vast but two areas near small pools had been identified as hotspots for this bird. It took around 50 minutes to drive to Coldharbour Cricket Club car-park. I checked the map and worked out my route having spoken to a couple of hikers who had been caught in a downpour. En route to Dukes Warren I spoke to a lady from the National Trust who gave me more precise directions to the area the Two Barred Crossbill had been seen.
(Leigh Hill)
Dukes Warren was approximately a 10 min walk from the car-park following the green trail in reverse through the metal gate down to post “G” and then turning right down the hill to the small pool.

I wandered around the area noting two Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel and around 100 Wood Pigeon. I decided to stake out the small pool by one of the paths and within a few minutes heard two Common Crossbill. The pair landed adjacent to the pool and began feeding in the top of the swaying pine. I stuck around in case others were going to join them but there were no further additions.

As time was pressing on I made my way back to the car-park checking the environs of the cricket pitch before making my way home.