The weather forecast for our week in Scotland is not looking particularly good: Lots of rain! But today was reasonably dry with some sunny intervals and so we took an afternoon walk to on one of the many paths around Bennachie. There were goldcrests and long-tailed tits in the trees, and also plenty of coal tits. A great spotted woodpecker flew over, and then – when Brenda had gone off along one of the tracks whilst I stood and watched over a clearing in the forest – I heard a crossbill calling. Suddenly a small flock of about ten birds flew out from the trees: 8 female crossbills and 2 males – identifiable by their reddish colouration.

There’s a problem with crossbills: In Scandinavia there’s a species called parrot crossbill, whilst over here we have common crossbill (sometimes called red crossbill). And then in Scotland there’s Scottish crossbill…..or is there? There is some debate as to whether the Scottish species is a separate species, as some authorities contest. Some people have also suggested that the birds in Scotland are actually more likely to be parrot crossbills. Since one of the only ways to tell them apart is by a detailed analysis of a recording of their calls I wasn’t going to be able to tell exactly what species I was seeing: I will put them down as Scottish crossbill, but I think I won’t award myself another “tick” if I see a common crossbill somewhere down south. Lovely birds though, whatever the species details, and I’ve never seen ten at once before.

One of the many woodland paths at Bennachie

Brenda writes: “After a slow morning we decided to have a walk at Bennachie on what turned out to be a gorgeous sunny afternoon. The old woodland is very special so I wasn’t too bothered not to see the crossbills. Back home, at dusk I sat on one of the crates of old slates from our roof and watched a bat swooping around catching insects. Perfect!”

New species for October 24th:
Birds: Scottish crossbill

Birds = 224
Moths = 252
Wildflowers = 289