The ringing sessions on Leith Hill over the last couple of weeks have been very memorable, but mainly for birds that haven't been caught!
28th September saw the first Redwings and Woodlark migrating through as well as impressive movements of Swallow and House Martin. 30th September saw continued good passage of hirundines as well as alba Wagtails, 70 Redwing, a large number of migrant Song Thrush and 2 Ring Ouzel (my first for Leith Hill, unknowing what was to come).
A short break with Rye Bay Ringing Group provided a great experience of a Swallow roost of over 10,000 birds and the amazing capture of a first year Common Rosefinch (below).
On returning to Leith Hill, 6th October produced at least 2 Raven, the first two Lesser Redpoll and Brambling, a Woodlark, 2 Swallow (late for here) and good numbers of thrushes including 15 Mistle Thrush, 30 Redwing and at least 4 Ring Ouzel. But yesterday (8th October) set a new standard with a large amount of thrushes coming out of roost before dawn including at least 20 Song Thrush, 20 Blackbird, 100 Redwing. The real excitement began with the first net round where the first bird was a Grasshopper Warbler (below), which on this late date and on one of the height points in the south east is somewhat unusual. But whilst we were ringing this bird a group of 5 Ring Ouzel flew into trees to one side and a small number of Crossbill flew into another tree in front of us. Paul takes a second look at the Crossbills and then shouts 'Two-barred'! A female Two-barred Crossbill was sat at the top of the tree next to a male and female Common Crossbill sporting two blazing wingbars. It didn't stay for long before flying off, but nearly an hour later flew over again with assumedly the same group of Commons. Other birds that morning included the first Reed Buntings and only second Greenfinch for this part of the hill as well as a Brambling and 2 Woodlark.
It is not the first time though that this bird has been seen. Crossbills have been a constant feature at Leith Hill for as long as I can remember, but inexplicably they vanished from the whole area in November 2012. In mid July this year Crossbills were back and coincided with a small eruption of Two-barred Crossbills along the east coast, mainly in the north. On 31st July amongst a flock of about 150 a female Two-barred Crossbill was seen briefly on the far eastern edge of Leith Hill at Redlands Wood by Martin Gray. Ever since I have been keeping and eye out for small birds amongst the Crossbills and had a number of fleeting and uncertain views of one on 6th and 26th August, 22nd and 30th September, but nothing certain until now.
Hopefully it will hang around long enough to get some photos and for many others to see it as I believe it to be only the second ever for Surrey after one over 100 years ago!