Monday, 22 July 2013

8-barred wonder as I finally get in on the Loxia action!

We have come to expect a mid summer arrival of crossbills from Scandanavia - it usually kicks off in July with the first intrepid invaders making landfall on the Northern Isles. Sometimes two-barred crossbills come with them and 2013 has proven to be one such year.

The Northern Isles have seen comparitively little action with the focus so far (since 20th July) on East Anglia. It began on the coast with birds at Cley, Holme, Kelling and a pair in Suffolk and they started arriving at Lynford Arboretum the following day. By early evening at least three birds were present and I decided to pop up there with my little lad the following day (today as I write this).

Ben is just two years old and twitching can be quite a challenge when he's in tow! With a forecast of 32 degrees celsius it was to be one of the hottest days of the year so far so I headed up early at around 10am (that's early for me, yes!).

The crossbills were proving faithful to a group of larches by the road - these could well have been the trees I saw a female TBC in more than 20 years ago. How times change. Then, I turned up on a winter's morning in a car full of young birders excited at the prospect of a day out in the Brecks. Today it was in the faithful Civic Type-R (hang on, did you expect a Mondeo estate or people carrier? times haven't changed that much!) with all the paraphernalia of a parent lugging a toddler around - and then some as being on one of the hottest days of the year so far (with 32 degrees forecast) I had to make sure I'd added water, hat and sun cream to the bag of goodies. 

For the next hour and a half I struggled to control Ben whilst attempting to count the two-barreds and grab some record shots. These were the first juvs I had seen and the difference of the adult female was striking when she appeared - largely unstreaked, green (washed orange in places) and with considerably bolder wing-bars and tertial-tips. Towards the end we managed to see three two-barreds at once but we couldn't quite confirm the suspected fourth bird - until I got home and saw it on the news page - we had been watching four birds after all, it's just they hadn't all shown together until after I left.

With more birds on the Norfolk coast coming in this could prove to be a major irruption. And with reports of booted and Bonelli's eagle in the south-east (not to mention last night's Swinhoe's at an overnight tape lure on Fair Isle) it's apparent this 'mega summer' is showing no sign of abating!

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