Enjoying my first Crossbills infront of the interpretive centre in Glenveagh National Park way back in 2002. Crossbills are still almost gauranteed here on every visit, along with so much more.

For what felt like an eternity, I was cursed with crossbills. Over several years, I spent several days in the Wicklow hills searching supposedly reliable sites, and almost weekly walks in Cruagh Wood in South Dublin for nothing. Friends would routinely see them in random locations while twitching rarities or scouting headlands.

Some Crossbill sketches from the garden. Unfortunately, most of the time they were in the garden I was busy with deadlines and I had to try and ignore them, they also seemed to always be in trees looking into the sun.

After so many failed attempts, I was ready to give up, there were just so many more great birds to see.

But finally, in April 2002 while searching for Golden Eagle in Glenveagh National Park, a flock of 24 Crossbills found me. They landed in the trees surrounding the interpretive centre, calling constantly as they descended to drink in pools amongst the bushes.

The calls were ingrained in me, and soon after that I found them more regularly on my travels. Always unpredictable and never gauranteed, but patterns began to emerge.
January and February were good times to look in the Dublin hills, small parties were vocal and seemed to be constantly on the move. May usually produced several flocks in typical locations, but in July I was regularly picking up flocks in odd locations including Dublin city centre. I even had them over my parents sub-urban garden 3 times and in a single mature pine in my local park on a couple of occasions. But these views were frustrating, fly-overs and brief views on the distant tree-tops, I always longed for more enjoyable, relaxed views and occasionally got them.

Trying to capture feeding birds is always a challenge, but it was great to have them for so long to practice.

Early July has been one of those rare occasions. While working at the desk on July 2nd, I heard the distinctive calls and rushed outside just in time to see 15 or so fly over the front garden. Delighted with the garden tick, I went back to work only to be disturbed again a short time later. The birds were frustratingly difficult to pick up as they fed with-in cover, but as time passed I realised that the majority of birds involved were juveniles. They sat tight as the adults fed, calling only when their parents came to feed them. As the week progressed, the birds became more visible, but also more mobile moving between the many conifer stands nearby.

They remained in the garden for almost 2 weeks, but I have heard them several times since in surrounding woodlands. As the Autum draws closer I am hoping for a few more passing flocks to stop off.

The views were often fantastic, and even caused a little local twitch for some of the few Donegal birders.
ROBERT VAUGHAN ILLUSTRATIONS SHOP ONLINE
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