This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

You Birders/Scientists Can't Handle The Truth

From my last post, it ended with me saying about going on a twitch. This I duly did with me mate Fred. Our target was the Spanish Sparrow that was in residence at Calshot, Hampshire. Well, we connected with thy beast and what a handsome fellow he was too. This was the first time I had seen this species in Britain, so I was well pleased. Plenty of pics on other sites, so won't bore you with more. Anyways, didn't take me camera. On the way back, we also saw the Dark-eyed Junco at Hawkhill Enclosure in the New Forest, again, plenty of photos of this bird on the net. Also, some showy Crossbills at this site. We searched in vain for a Great Grey Shrike in the New Forset, but did manage a stunning male Hen Harrier, one of my favourite birds. We ended up at Blashford Lakes, Hampshire, where I did set eyes briefly on what was being claimed as an adult Caspian Gull (see photos on the Hampshire Ornithological Society website), but my views were inadequate to be happy that it was one. Instead I had to be content with a few Yellow-legged Gulls, some beautiful Goosanders and cracking views of Lesser Redpolls. More on the latter later in the post.

Yesterday, I went twitching again. Cripes, do I do any birding? I hear you say! Well, just haven't had time, but must get out there and find stuff soon. Anyway, back to the twitch. Went to Black Down, West Sussex, with Fred and Luke, in order to see the Parrot Crossbill reported from there. Luck was on our side and the bird was in situ on our arrival. Now, there has been some debate as to whether this bird is the real deal. Well, I'm certain it is one and I hope the accompanying photos will convince you. Oh yeah, apologies for the quality of the pics, as they are record shots taken in not the best of light. Also, trying to get used to new toy.
Click on images to make them bigger.

 Now, this is a male Common Crossbill that we also saw at this site yesterday. Note the depth of the lower mandible, the tip of which can be seen protruding above the upper mandible.

 Now for the female Parrot Crossbill. Note the depth of the lower mandible, with the tip of the lower mandible not protruding above the upper mandible. Also, you can clearly see that this bird has a bulky head and neck.


 On this image, note the slight bulge on the gonys. It is slight, but it is there. Come on, how much like a parrots beak do you want this to look like. Plumage-wise, it did look a tad duller than some of the accompanying female Common Crossbills, but Crossbills are so variable, I'm sure you could find a female Common Crossbill looking the same in plumage tone.


We'd lost the bird for a while. Then I heard a bird fly in and on call, I kind of knew it was going to be it. It then landed on top of a pine tree and here she is. The call was definitely deep in tone. Unfortunately I don't have any sound gear, but a sound recording of this bird would definitely confirm it's identification as a Parrot Crossbill.

Parrot Crossbill was something of a bogey bird for me, having dipped on them in Lincolnshire in 1991, Hampshire in 2000 (the last English record) and seeing a group of birds in Abernethy Forest that were big bulky headed and billed, but not being close enough to get any real value on them. The latter was very frustrating, you know, seeing the bird, but not really seeing it, I hate that.

But was it all worth it? Well I like to see birds whatever, but when are we gonna get a grip and accept that these Crossbills are all the same species. Personally, I think Common, Scottish and Parrot Crossbills should be lumped. So what if there is different bill sizes and some are heavier than others. These differences are subtle. So what if there is all these different call types. Ever heard of regional dialects. Maybe you're gonna tell me that "Northern" Bullfinch is a different species next. Come on guys and gals! These is so much overlap in plumage, that it renders identifying them on that useless. Are you telling me that all these Crossbills around the world that all look the same, albeit with subtle differences in size, size and shape of bills and different call types, yet all genetically the same are different species? What a load of crap. Then there's Redpolls. You can lump them as well and that includes Arctic. I do think all these bird forms are gorgeous though and seeing them is worth it, not just for the sake of a tick.

Back to the Parrot. I've heard it said the head shape, in relation to the forehead and crown, is wrong. Surely this can change with posture.Why isn't it a Scottish? I hear you say. Because I'm reliably informed that they are resident, though some people would argue with that fact. Why isn't it a "Eastern" Common Crossbill? I hear you say. Well, this is the first time I've heard these mentioned. Look, I think it's a Parrot and who cares anyway, it's just a flipping Crossbill.

Whist in West Sussex we also took in the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard at Burpham and again ended the day at Blashford Lakes, Hampshire where we endeavored to see the Caspian Gull and failed completely.

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