Two-barred Crossbill

Made a 5 minute detour on the way to catch the ferry home this evening, and went to Sandgarth to see a female Two-barred Crossbill. Not the easiest bird to see by any stretch of the imagination, being rather elusive in some of the very best habitat I’ve seen on Shetland – lovely dense fields of hogweed, young trees, and irises. I’d forgotten how good it was here, as it’s years since my first and only visit (for the Taiga Flycatcher).

First bird I clapped eyes on was a female Crossbill, and shortly afterwards a bright red male feeding alongside her. Rather naively I assumed the Two-barred would not be far away, but 15 minutes later I was sure she was nowhere nearby.

Crossbill on hogweed

Crossbill on hogweed

Went out to wander the mown paths through the fields of hogweed, hoping to stumble across her. Still no joy. Time was pressing, and I had 20 minutes left before I had to race for the ferry, so headed back towards the car. Picked up Crossbills calling in flight overhead – the male and female bombing past me, and up towards the main road. They pitched onto vegetation right beside the verge… with 2 more female crossbills. One clearly a Common, and the second eventually turned to profile and show a brief flash of white on the wings.

Legged it back to the car, alerted the 2 other birders nearby, and after a tense couple of minutes we had it in scopes. Phew. Too distant to photograph, and I had to go pretty much straight away for the ferry. Not a lifer, but only my second sighting of this species. The first time was with an ex-girlfriend, and there lies a sorry tale, which will have to wait for another day. Not as exciting as our Little Bustard twitch to Cornwall that ended up with me face down, naked, her on my back and me biting a leather belt… but that story will have to wait too. Am an old, grizzled ex-twitcher unworthy of being part of the scene these days. But in my day, I could’ve been a contender…




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