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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 17:56   #1
RegTelescope
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Crossbills - Scotland, UK

Interested in people's opinions on these.

I won't disclose too much information at this point, but I can give location, date and a bit of detail on the calls later on.
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 18:03   #2
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Can you give a recording of the calls?
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 18:18   #3
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Not Parrot by the looks of things. Apart from that take your pic.
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 18:18   #4
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No recording of the calls. Can you give an opinion based on appearance at this point?
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 18:21   #5
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20 years ago I might have confidently pronounced them as Scottish Crossbills (if they were in a Scotbill stronghold) These days I wouldn't consider it without a sound recording!
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 18:30   #6
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They were within Scottish Crossbill range. There were a good number of these birds, but I was only able to get these photos unfortunately.

The call was more like 'chup chup', quite deep, but I know that everyone says recordings are necessary to make an absolutely positive ID.

At this stage, I have been happy to tick them as Scottish, not Common.
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 19:06   #7
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I dont see anything but common crossbill
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 19:12   #8
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My gut feeling is Common, but I would want to see a sonogram to rule out Scottish.
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 21:40   #9
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I guess it was always going to be a tick where there was a degree of doubt, but in the field these birds just didn't have the feel of Commons, and I was very mindful of not letting my heart rule my head.
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2008, 22:56   #10
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They look like 'pine crossbills' on plumage to me but then I have seen Commons with similar plumage (there used to be a pic of a 4E type on my blog that looked "Scottish").

Hard to tell from bill size in the photos, as they look more Common, though I don't put too much precedence on this from photos as the angle the lens is at affects the appearance. But let's put it this way - I would not be surprised if a bird like that gave an EcC toop call (Scottish under current nomenclature). The bad news: this would not be "chup, chup" for either an excitement call or flight call ! "Choop" is the Parrot flight call, and as others have said these ain't Parrots (though I suppose they could be xbills that think they are Parrots !). Did they give this "chup" call as they flew away or was in similar to the cadence of blackbirds alarming. Did they all give this call at the same time. Did they give this call sporadically when feeding. This would help a diagnosis.

Would be nice idea to disclose date, rough location (even 10km) and any other details (how many, behaviour when feeding) as that might help me further. Either way, can't guarantee a tick I am afraid, based on the fact there are also Commons with similar dusky plumage (and even intermediate bill depths).

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Old Friday 23rd May 2008, 07:34   #11
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The location was near Loch Kinord and the two pictures were taken just over a week ago.

The calls seemed to be regular and constant, like a kind of contact call as the birds fed. I know the pictures aren't of the highest quality and ID from them is nigh impossible, but I am a birder who carries a point and shoot digital camera with me for record shots, as opposed to a serious photographer.

Having had a few encounters with Common Crossbills over the last year or two, I would say that the majority of these birds (it was a small flock that was observed) didn't have the same look and feel as them and the calls didn't seem right.

You only have my word on this, and I don't wish to sound big-headed, but I generally have a good ear for bird song and calls. Having said that, from what I can tell, most people say ID without sonograms etc is very difficult.

I studied the flock with the view to stating why they weren't Scottish Crossbills and, despite noting one individual that looked better for Common, the remainder of the birds seemed to fit the bill (no pun intended!).

Compare with this admittedly poor picture of a Common taken in Devon in February.
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Old Friday 23rd May 2008, 10:47   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RegTelescope View Post

The calls seemed to be regular and constant, like a kind of contact call as the birds fed.
These are non diagnostic as I suspected.

Quote:
You only have my word on this, and I don't wish to sound big-headed, but I generally have a good ear for bird song and calls. Having said that, from what I can tell, most people say ID without sonograms etc is very difficult.
It doesn't matter how good your ear is, though this obviously helps. Without also having considerabe experience of the various crossbill calls you are not going to convince anyone without a sonogram ! There are currently at least five vocal types present in the UK and within these there is considerable variation, for example with Fc1 in particular.

Feel free to tick them as Scottish but plently birders wouldn't without further evidence. To prove this point I have posted a pic of a Common Crossbill on my blog that is very much like a scotica specimen - intermediate bill, downcurved culmen and dusky orange plumage. It gave a both an EcE and Fc4 on release. There is a chance yours are Scottish, but who knows for sure.....


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Old Friday 23rd May 2008, 11:03   #13
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I made the trip to Scotland in December and saw flocks on most days. The only ones I could actually ID 100% were common and parrot. I heard what I thought were Scots and saw what I thought were Scots, but without Sonograms (or DNA) I have not be able to say 100% that I saw the Scot Crosser.

Therefore like many before and many after I am returning to the Highlands to try and get some recordings so I can try and nail some for sure. I seriously underestimated the difficulty with this 'species'
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Old Friday 23rd May 2008, 11:16   #14
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....(or DNA) I have not be able to say 100% that I saw the Scot Crosser.
DNA is non diagnostic too, apparently !
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Old Friday 23rd May 2008, 17:20   #15
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Therefore like many before and many after I am returning to the Highlands to try and get some recordings so I can try and nail some for sure.
The trouble is that this can lead to even more confusion. Look at the sonograms in posts 23 and 37 in this thread. Both recorded in Speyside native pine forest, but neither matching any published call types.

I might be tempted to call both of them Scottish but who knows?
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Old Friday 23rd May 2008, 18:57   #16
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.....The trouble is that this can lead to even more confusion.....
Yep, it is one thing getting a recording of a crossbill and another thing being able to identify it correctly from a sonogram. Like doing the calls by ear, it needs a lot of experience.

My sonogram consultancy business will be starting soon for all these vague and variant calls (I joke, of course).

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Old Saturday 24th May 2008, 10:51   #17
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It will definitely be the stringiest thing on my list, that's for sure, but I can live with that!
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