Lifer on Robin Hood’s footsteps

The Sherwood Forest is probably the forest what everybody heard about. If not about its picturesque landscape then in relation its famous historical ‘citizen’, the Robin Hood. I anyway wanted to visit this site with the Girls but today I travelled to this pristine area to find a long staying rarity, the Parrot Crossbill.

As I was on my own I decided to depart early to arrive with the first lights to avoid wasting time with driving in the anyway short daylight period. I arrived the forest still in the dark and immediately was greeted by a Tawny Owl. About 15 minutes later the twilight soothed the owl bringing the absolute Sunday silence to the forest. I was pondering about what was the birdlife in the Sherwood Forest in Robin Hood’s time.

It was -2°C and but somehow I felt it colder. Soon a kind local birdwatcher couple arrived. I joined them as they have already seen these crossbills at the end of last year.

Luckily it was a stunning weather with perfect lights. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Luckily it was a stunning weather with perfect lights. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Gorgeous sunset over the frosted heathland. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Gorgeous sunset over the frosted heathland. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Only the ‘early birds’ can see the beauty of the sunrise. © Gyorgy Szimuly

After a just short walk I found myself in a beautiful heathland what was even more special by the frost. Heathlands are one of my favourite habitat types. This area is just north of the Sherwood Forest but still part of the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve.

Another part of the Sherwood Forest heathland reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Another part of the Sherwood Forest heathland reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pine trees offering excellent food source for the crossbills. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pine trees offering excellent food source for the crossbills. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The sunshine on the frost made the lights very special. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The sunshine on the frost made the lights very special. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The extensive network of footpaths supports detailed wildlife watching. © Gyorgy Szimuly

In the middle of the heathland I spotted the first calling Common Crossbill. It was a promising sign, however the Parrot Crossbills appeared only after three hours of searching. By that time lots of birders and twitchers patrolled the area. While slowly walking across the large heathland we were watching Goldcrests, Great Tits, Eurasian Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Eurasian Wrens, Meadow Pipits, overflying Fieldfares and Redwings, Chaffiches and European Goldfinches. With the first lights, Common Wood Pigeons were flying out from their roosting site. Green Woodpeckers were frequently calling. At the north of the site a flock of 16 Pink-footed Goose were flying west which was a kind of surprise for me.

Birdwatchers enjoyed the cracking view of the flock. © Gyorgy.Szimuly

Birdwatchers enjoyed the cracking view of the flock. © Gyorgy.Szimuly

At about 10AM a homogenous PARROT CROSSBILL flock landed on a single pine tree next to the place where all the birders waited, and where they have previously been seen. They actively stared feeding on the cones, but soon they were bathing and drinking in an ice free corner of a little pool. The kind couple let me enjoy the view through their Swarovski scope. These were such perfect birds with that massive bill and huge squared head. They are not much different in colouration from the Common Crossbills though. Again, I was lucky to get cracking views on the birds, even through the binoculars.

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Adult male Parrot Crossbill in the Budby Common heathland. © Mandy West

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A pair of Parrot Crossbill photographed in the same area earlier. © Mandy West

From the observation spot I counted 8 birds, but then later 14 birds were confirmed by longer staying bird watchers. There has been a Great Grey Shrike in the same area, but despite the plenty of birdwatchers it was found quite late in the morning.

Species list of the area:

Pink-footed Goose 16
Graylag Goose 2
Black-headed Gull 4
European Herring Gull 24
Stock Dove 3
Common Wood-Pigeon 74
Green Woodpecker 2
Eurasian Jay 1
Eurasian Magpie 4
Rook 14
Carrion Crow 23
Coal Tit (British) 12
Great Tit 17
Eurasian Blue Tit 28
Long-tailed Tit 4
Eurasian Wren 6
Goldcrest 4
Eurasian Blackbird 3
Fieldfare 9
Redwing 6
Mistle Thrush 1
Dunnock 2
White Wagtail (M. a. yarellii 2
Meadow Pipit 28
Common Chaffinch 19
European Greenfinch 4
Parrot Crossbill 8 (14)
Red Crossbill 1
Eurasian Siskin 2
European Goldfinch 18

The Parrot Crossbill became my 2.177th life birds, according to the IOC list. Since I moved to England it’s been the 4th life birds in the country following the Buff-bellied Pipit, the Ivory Gull and the Pink-footed Goose.

Special thanks to amazing Mandy West for both the Parrot Crossbill photographs and providing directions.

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8 thoughts on “Lifer on Robin Hood’s footsteps

  1. I will be there in spring but suspect I will see a different set of species. A lovely account of a good days birding.

  2. That looks such a beautiful place, rather similar to certain patches within our Southern UK heathlands. And boy don’t those Parrot Crossbills have huge beaks, truly a good year for those species I understand.

    Kind Regards

    Tony

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