Sunday, 16 February 2014

Secretive Crossbills and 'Peckers in Orlestone

With a rare morning of sunshine and calmness ahead, I decided to head to the plantations of Orlestone Forest in search of our more interesting birds. Top of my list was to check whether the winter Crossbills were still to be found. Orlestone, even at the best of times, can be a dis-spiriting birdwatching experience; patience and time are needed to find anything other than an unwelcome Squirrel. What's more, as I arrived early in the morning, I wondered if there would be anything avian left in the woods after the wind and rain endured week after week. I spent two hours looking and listening in the conifer plantation and then scanning high above and silence prevailed. Still, after an hour, plenty of common woodland birds including, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, G.S woodpeckers, Green woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Treecreeper plus a small party of Siskins - but no sign or sound of Crossbills or anything else out of the ordinary. 

Walking beyond the plantation, with views over Romney Marsh, again not a great deal to report - one pair of Buzzards took to the air. I continued to watch and and listen intently from the plantation edge. With another hour ticking by, I was resigned to a poor mornings' birdwatching but then to save the morning a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker burst into call close by. Frustratingly, I couldn't locate the bird. Keeping to the mean spirit of the forest the Woodpecker was never to call again. Still, the one call was enough and adds a new location for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker within the forest, painting a picture of a bird holding its own in numbers and distributed thinly and wildly across the forest. So at last, a good find for the morning.

As I walked back to the woodland entrance with my car in sight, two plump finches flew from the top of a large spruce in front of my feet.  They followed the path and landed high in an oak above my car, disappearing into the canopy.  As I walked towards them, I couldn't relocate them and thought they'd flown away. But as I arrived at my car I checked through the tree canopy once more, and refound them. A fine pair of Crossbills and, even better, so close that I could see the female carrying a beak-full of twigs in her bill. I think this is a 'Eureka' moment as I now have evidence that Common Crossbills are attempting to breed in the forest.

Looking down on my car, a female common Crossbill

1 comment:

Clare Gillatt said...

Brilliant news, now find the nest?