Sunday, 23 January 2011

Common Crossbill on Sanday

Mountain biking this morning at Glentress, in the Borders, and the spruce trees seemed to be full of Common Crossbills. We watched two birds at close range perching on one of the poetry-inscribed stones at the edge of the red trail. One looked a typical female type but the other was a lovely (young male?) with pale body feathers and a bright yellow rump. I was wishing that I had binoculars or camera with me - although they might not have been very helpful at other moments...

I grew up with Common Crossbills being regular birds in the trees around the house and, as a result, they are one of my favourite birds. While flocks were seen on a seemingly daily basis, and prolonged views of feeding birds could be had regularly, it was a rare event that really good close views could be obtained.

Strangely, after a childhood surrounded by conifers, my best ever view of a feeding Common Crossbill was on the virtually tree-less Isle of Sanday, Orkney, in the summer of 2009.


We had just arrived at a cottage that we had rented for the week at the Peedie Sea and to welcome us a Common Crossbill flew in to watch me unpack the car boot. It appeared to be a second year male, as it was pretty red but also showed quite a number of immature feathers, and it also showed a thin but distinct wing bar caused by narrow pale fringes on the greater coverts. After sitting on the fence for a while it was soon tucking into grass seed and it fed in the area on and off for the next few days. Hopefully it made landfall elsewhere later in a more suitable habitat...




5 comments:

alan tilmouth said...

Lovely shots Geoff, inland and up high down here yesterday looking for wintering GGS in clear fell and commercial woodland, Crossbills were almost the only passerine seen with 'glip glip' being one of the few sounds (apart from Coal Tit.

welchs said...

Great pics, one of my favourites! Happy memories of watching them in not dissimilar habitat on Shetland and the Faroes in Aug 1990; in both locations not a tree in sight and came across birds apparently at random on hillsides feeding on grass seeds; not so optimistic about what became of them as they continued their dispersal...

Joseph Nichols said...

Beautiful shots Geoff. Crossbills are absolutely stunning birds, and you've captured them there fantastically. You were very lucky to have grown up with Crossbills round your house - something I wish I had!

All the Best,

Joseph

Anonymous said...

Superb shots. One of the local places I go to frequently to try to photograph crossbills is Deepsyke Forest near Carlops. I must try harder ! ;-)
regards,

Bruce Kerr

Morg said...

Thanks for the positive feedback. This certainly felt like a once in a lifetime chance to watch a crossbill feeding at close quarters, though I'm sure it is fairly commonplace up on the Northern Isles!

Geoff