Sunday, 13 April 2014

More Crossbill fun

So after returning from my brief trip to Latvia, I still had a few days off. Once all necessary 'chores' were out of the way I had time for birding. While it was certainly more spring-like in Norfolk than Latvia had been, there was still a chill in the air and migrants were relatively thin on the ground.
On Thursday I walked Winterton north dunes going beyond the toad pools to try and find the Wryneck that had been reported earlier in the day but it had moved on probably. It was only on the return leg that I saw one of the three Ring Ouzels, a fine male perched on a distant gorse bush. Apart from my first Swallow of the year, the other highlight was this fine Adder. The first time I have seen one anywhere, I guess thats what becomes of living in 'snake-free' Ireland for most of my life.

Common Adder, Winterton Dunes, Norfolk - 10th April 2014
On Friday I birded Horsey Gap where four Swallows, one Willow Warbler and an adult Med Gull were the best. I popped into Great Yarmouth Cemetery en route home but could only dig out a Chiffchaff in the northern section.
On Saturday I tried East Wretham Heath briefly to see if any Redstarts had arrived - they hadn't, but there were plenty of Blackcaps singing. From there I went to Lynford Arboretum to try for Hawfinches but after two hours stood waiting in the one spot I gave up and joined the group near the entrance hoping for views of the Two-barred Crossbills as they came in to drink. Again another two hour fruitless stake-out. Well, I say fruitless, but it had its benefits as you will see. I got speaking to the couple who own the old gardener's cottage. A nicer pair of people you couldn't hope to meet. They invited me and a few others to come in a stand near the white container so we could get better views, should the birds come to drink. I spent the next hour or so chatting with them as we waited. The Crossbills never showed and as the light faded and the cool air began to make me shiver, I decided to head away. It was then about 7.15pm. However, they suggested that I should come back early in the morning and stand at the opposite side of the pool to have the best chance of a photograph. With their permission I returned at 7am this morning and after about one and a half hours the Crossbills finally played ball and dropped in to drink. First some Common Crossbills, then the 'contentious' Crossbill and finally a male Two-barred Crossbill. I filled my boots with photographs, with mission accomplished it was time for coffee back at the car.

Female Common Crossbill
Female Common Crossbill
Male Common Crossbill

Male Common Crossbill

Male Two-barred Crossbill

Male Two-barred Crossbill

Male Two-barred Crossbill and female Common Crossbills

Male Two-barred Crossbill and female Common Crossbill

'Contentious' wing-barred Common Crossbill or 1st year Two-barred Crossbill or hybrid??
The bird above is very interesting, I first saw it in November last year and wondered whether it was a Two-barred Crossbill or wing-barred Common (see previous blog entry Two-barred Crossbill....?). Recently Marcus Nash has written an excellent article on the RBA about the Lynford Crossbills and this bird in particular (see The Crossbill Conundrum). Whatever it is, the whole thing has been very educational, my experience before moving to Norfolk had been flyover Common Crossbills in Ireland. But within the last year I have seen Common, Parrot and Two-barred and this 'contentious' bird also. You can't help but learn from seeing these birds whatever they are!
After the Crossbill fun we drove over to Felbrigg Hall for the Red-rumped Swallow. Sadly it seemed to have moved on before we arrived. I stupidly forgot my bins and returned from the lake to the car to retrieve them. On my way back I had a very interesting looking Buzzard. The first thing that drew my attention was the very pale band across the rump. I know some Common Buzzard can show this but it was quite striking and well defined. Secondly as it passed over me I could see very clean and pale underparts and undersides to the wing. It showed dark primaries, a dark tailing edge to the inner primaries and secondaries and a brown crescent shaped mark on the underside of the wing by the carpal joint. Of course, I now had my bins but no camera. I returned to the lake and mentioned it to Nick, he had managed some distant photos and will be checking these at home later. Based on a look at Forsman's text I am leaning strongly towards Rough-legged Buzzard.

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