Saturday, 26 October 2013

Two-barred and Parrot Crossbills at Hemsted Forest, Kent

With Brian working this morning, Dad and myself decide to try our luck with Crossbills at Hemsted Forest in Kent.
Leaving home at 6.30am it's a straight forward drive through the Blackwall Tunnel along the A2, M25 and then onto the A21. Turning onto Cranbrook Road, Biddenden shortly before 8am.
Plenty of cars were already parked up in the small area in front of the Forestry Commission sign post and along the road either side of the barrier.
Leaving the car and heading up the dirt track to find plenty of birders already scanning the surrounding areas East and West of the clearing.

Birders scanning the surrounding trees from the clearing.

Shortly after arriving the first flock of Crossbills fly across and land in trees to the right of the track. But there's only Commons in this flock.
A similar pattern follows as small flocks of Crossbills fly in and land in trees. The flocks are scanned and all appear to be Commons.

Then shortly before 9am another flock fly in and land in trees to the right of the track. After getting the scope onto them and scanning through the birds a stunning male Two-barred Crossbill is found.
The flock stay in the tree feeding for around 10 minutes giving great views. The Two-barred can be easily picked out on colour alone. Being much more pinkish red than the Common Crossbills feeding around it. 
An interesting bird is found among the flock feeding and looks a good candidate for parrot Crossbill. 
The flock fly off, only to circle round and land in an Oak tree much closer to the track where we are scanning from. I counted fifteen birds in the Oak tree, one of which is the Two-barred.

A mixed flock of Redpoll and Siskin fly across and disappear behind the trees to the left of the track. Shortly afterwards another flock of birds fly overhead and head for the trees near the start of the entrance track. After scanning them with the scope, they are found to be Redwings.

We decide to follow a group of Kent birders down the track and scan the trees which reports suggest are the favoured feeding areas for Parrot Crossbills.
Another flock fly over and while scanning through them, one of the guys calls a single bird perched up near the top of a tree close to us.
As soon as the scope is on it, it looks very good for Parrot Crossbill. It shows all the features you would hope for when checking.
A flat crown that almost merges into the top of the bill, a huge bill with parallel looking ivory cutting edges, thick necked.
Another single bird flies across calling, the call sounds much deeper than a Common and is agreed to be another likely Parrot Crossbill.

A very rewarding morning with three types of Crossbills, two of which are lifers!


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