Sunday, 5 January 2014

Two-barred Crossbills Broomhead Reservoir, South Yorks

Two-barred crossbill 7+ (5mm, 2ff)
Siskin 2
Red grouse 3 flying over moors near Broomhead Reservoir

I took an unexpected opportunity to call in again at Broomhead Reservoir today, and wouldn't you know it, following hours of futile searching last week, today we drove straight up to a group of birders who were watching the crossbills. Marvellous!

There were at least five stonking males and two females in the larches, mainly feeding high up, but thankfully two males came lower down for a few minutes allowing me to get a good look at them. It's been a great winter for seeing Two-barred crossbills, and it's easy to forget that these are usually extremely rare birds in the UK, in fact it took me 40 years to see my first! That was a female with five juveniles at the same location last August, but with at least five bright red  males now present it would have been a real shame not to have taken the opportunity to go back for another look. It could be 20 years before we get another invasion like the one we've experienced this winter!

Male Two-barred crossbill.

Two-barred crossbills have the smallest bills of all of the crossbill species. This is because they feed mainly on larch and other smaller cones, though they will also feed on pine.

There are supposed to be around 100 Common crossbills at Broomhead, but in three visits I've not seen a single bird! The Two-barred crossbills tend to keep themselves to themselves, probably more down to their choice of food rather than being unsociable! Common crossbill feed largely on pine cones.

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