Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sunday 29th. December 2013

Mainly due to the weather , I haven't got out much recently , apart from a couple of quick visits to Sydenham Hill Woods , almost under the Crystal Palace television transmitter , where two Firecrests had been seen off and on . The only trouble was that they were on whilst I wasn't there , and off when I was , so all I managed to get on the visits was cold . I would have loved to have got out yesterday in great weather , but we were coppicing material for the hedge that we are laying , starting next weekend . So I was pleased to similar weather this morning , so I made an early start to visit the Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest , hoping to find a Parrot Crossbill or two , as 9 had been reported over the last couple of days . I was second car in the car park , just beaten by a local birder , and after a quick chat , decided to go round together in the hope that four eyes would be better than two . We went left at the gate , searching alongside the road to the old house , where the last reported sightings had been made . No luck there , so we made our way down the very muddy diagonal track towards the stream , once again without any luck . Heading up the boundary fence with the MoD land , we noticed that the dead tree just inside the Mod land , favoured by the Great Grey Shrike in previous years , had succumbed to one of the recent gales . The horse paddock at the top held a good number of Redwing , with new arrivals dropping in at intervals . We met another birder who had walked the track under the wires to where we were , and he hadn't found any signs either . He set off the way we had just come , whilst we took the other path back down to the stream . Over the stream and up the hill , towards the area favoured by Common Redstarts in the Summer , and just beyond found a small group of birders , with optics and cameras pointing towards the top of a Pine . We joined them , and soon after , we were looking at some of the Parrot Crossbills .

They were feeding  silently on the cones at the top of the tree , often out of sight or in the shadow of the branches . At one point , a male plucked what must have been a particularly tasty cone , and
having extracted a seed , offered it to a nearby female , which she accepted . They stayed for about 10 minutes , then one call and they all took off , settling amongst the topmost branches of a large Silver Birch along the top fenceline , where they stayed preening for a while , before flying off again , all calling , and numbering 9 in total . No one saw them land , so I started back towards the car park , well happy with what I had seen . As I passed the top of the gully that runs down the middle of the reserve , I heard them calling again and a couple flying into the top of another Pine . I made my way down , meeting another lady birder at the tree , where we had good views of a male , albeit through a maze of branches . Eventually all the original watchers arrived , along with new arrivals from the car park . The birds were feeding again , but staying out of view for much of the time , apart from the odd

time when one or two birds perched right at the top of the tree . The clear sightings became fewer and fewer , so I once again made my way to the car park , answering 'yes' to the question asked by every new arrival , 'are they showing' . On the way back home I thought it was a good job the Parrot Crossbills turned up , as there was very little else about on the reserve .
On the way home , a quick stop in the car park on the Common , where a good number of Fieldfare
were congregated high in an Oak . At home , a single shot through the slats of the kitchen blind and the double glazing of a female Blackcap . Carol says she was a constant visitor to the Callicarpa bush
all morning , but after this one shot , I didn't see her again .
And finally , a poor shot of a Redwing in poor light in the garden , but it was feeding on berries of a
Cotoneaster bush which was a cutting I took from the large bush in my neighbour's garden . Hopefully , in years to come , it will attract as many Winter Thrushes as the original bush .

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