Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Hemsted Parrot Crossbills - all sounds good

One advantage of moving down to Poole has been the social aspect as the Poole Harbour birders meet up on a fairly regular basis. I already knew a couple of guys from my twitching days and it's been great to make some new acquaintances and develop what I hope will become good friendships. As any of you who have read "Catching the Bug" from the Sound Approach team will know, Mark Constantine is a fairly central figure within this group and through him I have had the great pleasure to meet such birding luminaries as Magnus Robb. Apart from the fact that he is a top bloke he is generally regarded as the go to man for sound recordings. It must be difficult for birders like Magnus who are inundated with requests to id this and that so before I sent him the recording of the Hemsted Crossbills I emailed him first to see if he wouldn't mind if I forwarded it to him for his opinion. He quickly got back to me and after listening to the recording replied as such:
"At first when I heard the recording I was a bit pessimistic because it was difficult to distinguish between flight calls and song fragments. Then I noticed that around 0:15-0:18 there are several deep took took excitement calls that are definitely Parrot Crossbill. They are much more abrupt-sounding than the excitement calls of any other crossbill vocal types that I know.

Also of interest - I can hear juvenile crossbill calls (vocal type unknown) around 0:05-0:08 and there are some Glip Crossbill flight calls around 0:08-0:10."
The good news is that there are definitely Parrot Crossbill on the recording! It's also good that Magnus could hear Glip Crossbill and these would be the two small birds which were in the flock. The interesting thing is that Magnus intimates that it's not possible to safely identify juvenile birds from their calls. I asked him to clarify this and here is his reply:

"It's true that juv crossbill calls all sound pretty much the same. Parrot juvs no doubt have slightly deeper calls, but the shape is the same as in other crossbills and I think it would be unsafe to try to identify Parrots to species just by their begging calls."
So what conclusions can be drawn from all this? To be honest I think it all backs up my original thoughts that the flock we saw and sound recorded contained 12 Parrot Crossbill and 2 Glip (Common) Crossbill. Since last Friday Parrot Crossbills have been recorded in group sizes ranging between 3 and 7 birds and most reports seem to relate to adult birds. I certainly saw at least 4 birds which I considered to be juveniles due to the pale tips to the greater coverts as well as overall plumage details. These juvs were actually the showier birds when feeding and the adults were keeping a bit deeper into cover so I preferred to study the juvs rather than catch glimpses of the far more obvious adults which swayed into view every now and again. My thoughts are further borne out by the fact that when the flock flew around us there were 12 brutes and 2 tiny by comparison birds. So, as Magnus has confirmed that there are Parrot Crossbill calling on my recording then surely all 12 brutes must be Parrot Crossbill and I will be submitting such accordingly to the KOS rarities committee.

1 comment:

  1. Very glad to hear that somebody has been sound recording these birds! I've never convinced myself that I've seen a 100% Parrot Crossbill (although I'm fairly certain I have in Rothiemurchus) and, were I the county bird recorder, sound recordings would be the clincher for me.

    Of course, not all of us have a certain Mr Constantine on tap ;)

    Well done fella, a good result!