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Wednesday, 03 December 2008 18:47

Photo story – Crossbills invasion

1D3_3246PS

This strange term is well known to the people in the areas where Crossbills are not very often seen through the year but appear in great amounts in certain time with good harvest of pine seeds in the coniferous forests. Although Crossbills are quite common birds in Norway, for me the last weekend was under the sign of my personal Crossbills invasion. During the last year I met Crossbills here around Bergen several times – either as a silhouette on the top of a tall spruce or as small flocks of Crossbills flying over the forests accompanied by their typical call. I did not have a chance to observe these birds and take any good photograph until now. I tried my luck during the last weekend and took off for the north part of Sotra Island near Bergen, one of my most favourite place which holds the name Hjelmo. The Hjelmo forests usually sound with the callings of tits, Goldcrests and Wrens and quite common is also the Great-spotted Woodpecker; in the bush next to the wood we can meet Robin, Pipits or Dunnock and the last weekend I frightened away Woodcock; Through the dense forest it takes about 10 minutes walk to the sea where one can observe the local common species as are Gulls, White-tailed Eagle, Eider, Shags or Divers (detailed birdwatching records at the website of Julian Bell).

1D3_3023PS After 50 meters walk from my car I was clear that I was the right place at the right time – the forest in front of me echoed with the typical Crossbill call, several smaller flocks of Crossbills flew over me and I was only hoping to find some place where the Crossbills would be feeding and with good setting for taking pictures – that means the birds within the reach of my tele-lens and some pleasing background – Crossbills usually sit on the top of tall trees and taking pictures against the shining sky does not really make good pictures. 1D3_3030PS In the end everything went great except for one thing, which is quite important for photography and that is enough light – heavy grey clouds above me meant I had to set up the ISO sensitivity up to the values of 2000 and shoot with times between 1/80 and 1/320 of second so you can imagine how much trash-photos I produced and that I lost some good action shots…

 

1D3_3160PS When I found a flock of feeding Crossbills in the forest after a little while, I was surprised by their calm and silent behaviour – I thought they were shier and so I was moving very slowly and silently, I was creeping with the masking plaid and hiding behind available natural shelters. The birds did not obviously take care of me and carried on digging for the seed in pinecones while the pinecones fragments drizzled onto me from the surrounding trees. After three hours of watching and taking pictures I was quite confident to move freely around the birds without masking and sometimes I could get as close as 4 meters to them without disturbing them.

1D3_3241PS Although I planned to be taking pictures at the bird feeder in the forest close to my home the other day (Sunday), I decided to try my luck again and took off for Sotra island again – the weather forecast was promising with most of the day to be sunny and so with good chance for taking some good action pictures! Unfortunately the weather as well as the birds’ behaviour is unpredictable and thus I was leaving the place of the Saturday success after half an hour without a single picture but with the clouds soaked with rain behind me. But I was lucky that day again! Only after some 3 km of drive I saw a glimpse of the silhouette on the top of a tree. 1D3_3294PS I stopped my car and walked a bit back to find another big flock of Crossbills feeding on pinecones – there might have been about 50 – 100 Crossbills there. I did not have much time left and the rain was coming from the sea but in spite of that I spent good hour there and made some good pictures. It is hard to say how many Crossbills I saw during the last weekend but when some of the flocks lifted up I could count as many as 60 birds in that single group.

There are three species of Crossbills that we can meet in Norway – the most usual Common Crossbill and less common Parrot Crossbill and Two-barred Crossbill.1D3_3267PS Although there has also been observed the Two-barred Crossbill on Sotra Island, the last weekend I saw mostly the Common Crossbills and also a few specimens of Parrot Crossbill. Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between these two species – the main difference of the Parrot Crossbill is the overall robustness with bulky neck and bill and with more curved tip of the bill but sometimes the individuals are observed with transient signs which are difficult to sort out. I hope that I did not meet the Crossbills for the last time and that I will enjoy making pictures of them with better light conditions - on the other hand it was a good chance to test out properly the real performance of the 1D Mark III camera body – most of the pictures were taken at ISO 2000, the usual noise reduction is applied to the photos.

 

And at the end, two pictures of Parrot Crossbill – male and female.

1D3_3181PS 1D3_3077PS

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 03 February 2011 08:20
 
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