Thursday, 1 January 2009

Cones Glorious Cones !

Whilst you serious 'real' birder types are out chasing rare LBJ's around our coasts I, as you know, tend to be in the pine woods chasing crossbills about. Nuts ? Absolutely. Weird ? Of course. In need of 'help' some time very soon ? Yes you are. Well I am afraid for me it gets worse. I am not just obsessed by the Crossbills themselves, or even the sounds that they make, how deep their bills are, how long their wings are etc. You see, I am obsessed by all things crossbill. This includes what they eat, and that gentlemen, and gentle lady persons, is these:

The above image was taken in upper Deeside in mid November. It is clearly a green Pinus sylvestris, and the crossbill has opened the closed scales to get at the seeds inside. Now, if you do this long enough you can, with some degree of confidence, tell the species that depredated the cone. In this case I can go one better ( is thata Tap'ism ?) and say that it was a Scottish Crossbill male that I call Brian who has feasted on this cone. I joke, of course I don't give all them names. That would mean I really was crazy.

Here are some more from last week, notice that the cones are semi-open. It should normally be February before this happens, though I suspect it was a freak tree:

These cones above were created by an interesting mixed group including a Parrot type female (call and visual ID). Only 25 miles from Aberdeen as well ! Got some amazing behavioural stuff from this group, the kind of stuff you can only get by watching them closely in the field or 'arsing it' as the late DNT used to say.

This sample on the other hand, were all created by the same crossbill type, on calls and appearance:

These are closed cones again that the crossbills have had to prise them open. On a cold frosty day as it was this is hard work - it was hard work recording and observing them I nearly passed out with the cold due to hypothermia.

What are the crossbills in your area feeding on ? This, in my opinion, is more important than the type of call they are giving, this year at least.


Loxops said...

What crossbills? Haven't had a sniff of a crossbill for months, except the Yorkshire corporal of course!
Have got a handful of ripped up Scotspine cones though like the last photo. Didn't see the culprits.

Loxia Fan said...

Have you been out looking and not had any or just not been out? The Commons are not as, well, Common this year up here. A lot of movement, including around the coast over one of our ringing sites in November.

Loxops said...

Bit of both! The BRIC country whisky boom meant last year I worked most weekends and the missus had the car through the week too. Birding trips were a rare treat and when I did get out -no bloody crossers! Maybe I should look for a job on Speyside!
How's the spruce/larch cone crop this year in your neck of the woods?