Two-barred Crossbill  the power of sound

The first issue of volume 19 (1997) of Dutch Birding contained an ad from a camera shop in Den Haag, Zuid-Holland, for a small parabolic microphone and a tape recorder; subscribers of Dutch Birding were offered a discount of almost 11% on the normal price of 549 Dutch guilders. Encouraged by Magnus Robb, who had already been recording bird sounds for some time then, I bought the set. On Wednesday 2 April 1997, I made my first sound-recordings, of a European Serin and a Corn Bunting at Maastricht, Limburg. The deep hooting of a male Eurasian Eagle-Owl in a quarry late that morning, did not get on tape unfortunately.

Early September 1997, Hans Groot, Laurens Steijn, Pieter Thomas and I spent a weekend birding on Vlieland, Friesland. Our ambitions to find rarities were high as ever. Despite hard work, however, it seemed that we had to settle for Ortolan Bunting as the rarest species. Once we had boarded the ferry on the way home again, only the analysis of a sound-recording of unfamiliar calls from a bird in flight, heard on Saturday 6 September by me only, could change that…

And it did: the calls on my tape turned out to be from a Two-barred Crossbill – a rare and irregular visitor from northern Eurasia. Obviously, I would have preferred to identify the bird in the field, but I was happy with the outcome anyway. For sure, this was a sound I would never forget. In fact, during the following months I was able to practice a lot more, as an invasion of Two-barred Crossbills became apparent, bringing record numbers to the Netherlands (Ebels et al 1999). Needless to say, sound-recording still is a favorite activity of mine. Many birds are so much easier to identify when you use (and trust) your ears! 


In March 1998, I enjoyed studying a group of up to 17 Two-barred Crossbills, discovered by Ruud van Beusekom near Baarn, Utrecht. Click here to listen to a sound-recording I made of a song fragment. It consists mainly of chattering notes, creating a rather redpoll-like overall impression (cf Robb 2000).

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Published 30 March 2018