Monday, 24 March 2014

Well worth the wait

Spring has sprung but I've not finished mopping up a last few of the remaining Winter migrants still around. One that took my fancy on Saturday was the long-staying two-barred crossbill at Farnham. This is a slightly controversial bird. Although showing clearly defined wings bars and having a structure more reminiscent of its smaller cousin rather than our normal crossbill it has also been consorting with a female common. Most consensus is that it is a 2-bar.
Anyway, the morning was clear and bright if slightly chilly and i got to the rural life centre about 7.45. The heath is directly behind the centre which was where the crossbill has been reported.
The bird song was stunning as i  arrived. At least 3 pairs of woodlarks were in full song, both from the wing and perched. Dartford Warblers were singing in the heather, although i only managed to get 2 or 3 brief views, as the wind got up through the morning keeping them below scrub height. Occasional small groups of common crossbills flittered around, including one very smart male bird.
After about 10.30 small groups of other birders started to appear on site and with a bit of local knowledge we tied the best area down to the line of trees directly behind the centre. With about 8-12 'scopes now trained on the trees, they quickly gave up a flock of siskins, a female brambling and a few lesser redpolls. We got good views of a lone female crossbill as well but no 2-bar.
Then someone got onto a male - "its only a common, wait no, is it, bloody hell its got wing bars" followed by some rapid but confusing "in the trees, that one in the middle, about half-way up, behind a branch". Then it flew, or at least a group of about 3 birds flew out before i got onto them. They appeared to settle in another group of pines about 200 yards away. Bad decision #1. I left the rest of the group to try and 'scope the other trees. I stood by a lone pine, next to a pond. After about 10 minutes of  nothing i turned round to join the rest of the group only to be met by one of them coming towards me. The bird had only been perched above my bloody head for a minute waiting to come into the pool to drink. Well, at least it was around.
So, back to the group and we spent the next hour grilling the trees where it appeared to have gone into. We kept hearing crossbills calling but none gave themselves up.
Bad decision #2. Our view was obscured and by going back to my lone tree i could see round a corner deeper into the wood. So, off i went again. Guess what. I'd gone about 40 yards when i saw everyone elses 'scopes swing round to a tree in the opposite direction. Did a Usain Bolt like run back to them just in time to see a bird fly off the top. Luckily, it only circled and came back to the next door tree. Got onto it straight away-  beautiful male bird, lovely wing-bars. took a few distant digiscope images (uploading later) of it before it flew off. Was that the bird - -yes. Is it a 2-bar, who knows. One clearly knowledgeable birder on site was totally convinced, talking about tertials and primaries. LGRE seeks to differ, but for the moment , i'm having it and it was a bloody good looking bird and well worth a 5 hour wait!!!!