Sunday, 29 June 2008

Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) & Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), West Berks. 28/06/08.

Spotted Flycatcher

Common Crossbill has always been one of those problematic birds for me with only brief views of flocks flying overhead, I've never really had a decent view and I hoped to change that today with a visit to Roundoak Piece near Padworth. Local birder Peter Hickman had seen a small flock near the Oval pond on the previous day and after a call to Roy Rose arrangements were made to meet on site.

After meeting up we made our way towards Roundoak Piece, a few wrong turns and a few u-turns we finally found ourselves in the Spruce wood near Roundoak Piece, already we had heard Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, Treecreeper and Nuthatch along with the more common species. As we listened to the woodland singing I soon picked up on a Finch flock calling from overhead, It took a couple of seconds before a small flock of a dozen or so Common Crossbills flew over but they were soon lost to sight as they flew further into the woodland. We waited silently to hear where they had gone but to no avail, Coal Tit and Chiffchaff were all that could be seen and heard from the trees above so we headed on towards the Oval pond. At the Oval pond a pair of Little Grebes with one juvenile were busy on the east side of the pond but there was nothing else about so back to the Spruce trees we headed. We then wandered around some of the outer wood paths trying to look at the tree tops of any sign of Crossbill but with no luck, a Willow Warbler called from the trees next to the path and with the exception of Robin and common Tits it was quiet. Back where we began in the woodland we heard Crossbills flying over again and it was then I picked up on 2 unknown birds flying into the tree tops further along the path, as soon as I put my binoculars up I saw a male Common Crossbill sat in the tree preening itself. We watched it from the path below and was soon rewarded with a female sat at the end of the branch feeding on the Spruce cones as well, both male and female took it in turns to fed on the cones at the end of the branch before returning towards the trunk of the tree. This continued for awhile before they flew from the tree with another Crossbill and headed further down the path, we caught up with them again and managed to watch them for a further 10 minutes before 4 flew from the trees and off into the woods. On the way back to the car park I found a Slow worm that I almost trod upon , it was laid across the path and gave me enough time to get a quick photo of, nice to see as there not that easy to find anymore let alone to get a photo of.

Common Crossbill

Slow worm

Roy's having a good time with Spotted Flycatchers at the moment and an offer to go and see a family party in a private garden near Englefield was too good to turn down, we arrived to find a pair of Swallows sat on the overhead wires and I immediately saw a chance to digiscope at least one of the birds.


Spotted Flycatcher

It was soon evident that the Spotted Flycatchers were very close with the constant contact calls between both adult and juvenile and on cue an adult Spotted Flycatcher flew into view, it perched very close to us intently watching every insect that flew, hovered or crawled. It was soon off flycatching again and if you've ever stopped to watch one of these birds you will know how agile and acrobatic they are, with hungry mouths to feed they were continually on the hunt for food and very rarely stopped hunting. Although both adults were in view almost all the time the young were perched high in a nearby tree and very difficult to see as they sat in the top of the tree canopy and out of sight, while we watched the adults bringing food to the tree we saw a young Flycatcher drop down and sit in full view giving me a great chance to get a few photos. The adults were returning to feed their young every minute or so with a good selection of insects caught around the garden and surrounding fields and often perched on the fencepost giving me the best chance of some good photos. Roy's friend told us they had nested above their doorway and had 4 young which had left the nest the day before, this is the second year that they have bred in their garden which is very good news. The Spotted Flycatcher has been in a massive decline in recent years and has now become a RED STATUS species. A Hare was a nice end to the day as it appeared in the nearby field and came across towards us, It soon noticed us and headed back across the field and out of sight.

Young Spotted Flycatcher

Added To My Year List

194. Common Crossbill

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