These particular Crossbills have been on show regularly and predictably for the past week, and having not yet seen a Parrot Crossbill, I was keen to go for a visit when I could.
This was proving difficult, as this is annually my busiest time of the year work-wise, but last Saturday I managed to get out by 2.30pm and head off. This was at the same time a Semipalmated Plover appeared on Hayling Island, but this American mega didn't really interest me that much. A small wader that pokes around in the silt didn't really appeal. Crossbills are far more entertaining. They are noisy, active and constantly on the move when not feeding – a bit more of a challenge to find the rarity in amongst them.
The excursion proved to be an unmitigated disaster and totally fruitless barring hearing the Two-barred fly overhead while on a two-mile trek through the woods, having parked at the wrong location, due mainly to the vague directions I could get via the Rare Bird Alert site. If I'd parked in the right place the walk would have only been about 300 yards.
Having eventually and accidently found the right spot – I turned my head and saw a bank on scopes pointed at me as I walked up into the clearing – it was too dark and too late to see anything.
I waited until yesterday morning for another stab. The weather forecast promised clear skies and little or no wind.
I parked in the right place, walked up to the right area, and within a minute I was looking at a Parrot Crossbill, perched up in the pines with some Common Crossbill alongside for a comparison. Much heavier built from the neck up, its powerful bill showed up well as a silhouette against the sun, before it eventually perched closer for a better view with the sun behind.
|A Parrot Crossbill showing off its exaggerated features
After an hour wait, another flock arrived and dropped in to a lone oak tree about 100 yards away. Another (or the same) Parrot Crossbill was spotted in amongst the flock of about 20 birds.
The flock flew off and then all was quiet. Crossbill flocks came and went during the next hour – as did a lone Yellowhammer, three Brambling and a five or six Bullfinch – but most flew straight on and didn't land.
|Happy twitchers having seen three species of Crossbill
|A male Two-barred Crossbill at Hemsted Forest