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 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 Serinus serinus and a Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra at Maastricht. The deep hooting of a male Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 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. Our ambitions to find rarities were high as ever. Despite hard work, however, it seemed that we had to settle for Ortolan Bunting E hortulana 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 Loxia leucoptera– 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. 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