Took a walk in Bramfield Woods this morning with the hope of finding the Crossbills and the Brambling recorded yesterday by Alan Reynolds. Normally I would park up in the village and walk northwards along the footpath leading up the hill and into the woods from the southeast end but I decided to park in the layby near where Tewin Hill meets Winding Shott and walk along the footpath that goes through Nicholson's Wood.
It started rather quietly with just a handful of tits, wren, blackbird and woodpigeons until I approached the crossroads in the northeast corner of Nicholson's Wood where there were several chaffinch on the ground. I scanned them with the hope of a Brambling but there were none. A Nuthatch caught my eye low down and then a Chiffchaff burst into song. As I neared the crossroads where I noticed a small pond the distinct calls of Lesser Redpolls became apparent and I noticed several coming down to the pond plus several more in the pinetrees -around 20-25 in total. I decided that the site looked good for attracting birds down to drink so I set myself up in a position overlooking the pond and waited.
It was not long before I heard the call of Crossbills and caught the brief glimpse of a female passing overhead but then it was gone. A year tick but all a bit too brief really so I returned to watching the pond where chaffinches, goldfinches, blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits, dunnock and wren were intermittent visitors along with the redpolls. After about 20 minutes a male BRAMBLING in full breeding plumage landed on a small shrub near the pond and although it only remained there for about 5 seconds, it was just what I wanted. My first for the year (I did not get out much in January and February) and a male in breeding plumage with full black hood to boot. Shortly after this, suddenly a pair of Common Crossbills landed on the lower branches of a nearby tree no more than 25ft away and were frantically calling. I watched them for a while thinking this is far better, when I could hear a rustling sound at the base of the tree the crossbills were in. A JUVENILE!!!!.. WOW!!! a juvenile Common Crossbill was about 20ft from me amongst the leaf litter. I had never seen a fledgling crossbill before (seen juveniles capable of feeding themselves in Scotland and first winter birds in various places) and here was one barely a few miles from where I live in Herts. I watched open mouthed and awe struck as the juvenile managed to escape the leaf litter and fly to a shrub about 40ft away from me where the adults followed and the female preceded to feed it with regurgitated seeds. The feeding process took about 20 seconds before both adults left leaving the juvenile quietly perched some 10ft above ground all on its own where it remainedso for at least another 15 minutes until I left the area. The juvenile was uniformly greyish brown with heavy streaking throughout with the wings appearing darker. The bill appeared to have a slight curve but seemed to lack any crossing and was grey with a yellowish tint. The tail was distinctly shorter than the adults appearing somewhat stub-tailed which made it difficult for the bird to balance... seeming front (head and bill) heavy.
There was little else elsewhere in the woods, although a horse-rider mentioned seeing a large brown bird of prey sitting on the ground on one of the rides but it was not there when I arrived (presumed buzzard).
The pond is located at TL 2829 1705 just to the north of the crossroads in the northeast corner of Nicholson's Wood and seems to be a huge attraction to finches and tits given the warm weather and lack of water around.. It is shaded by pines and looks to have plenty of water in it and as well as the redpolls, crossbills and brambling could potentially attract hawfinches which are believed to be in the area.