Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Post 397 - Cracking Crossbills up at Upper Teesdale

The waterfall at Gibson's cave.
Hey everyone today's Post 397 and I would like to start off by saying I hope everybody had a happy Easter. It means for me that I get two weeks off school which is usually a great opportunity to get out and go Nature Hunting! I may not get as far as usual though as Dad's bad knee got fixed this week with a little operation so we may not be out and about as much as usual. Still I have one or two posts to catch up on so watch this space!

On Good Friday though we thought we'd head to the Lakes for a day out but we didn't get far when we saw the traffic going that way was very, very heavy. Fortunately we had a backup plan and we took a turn off to Upper Teesdale. This area is different to the lakes but is also stunning and a lot of it is a huge national nature reserve. I had a wonderful time but I also saw a lot of wonderful things there! One of which was a complete first for me! The scenery at the place we went to last (Bowlees visitor centre) was lovely. It was basically a really nice forest with a stream running right the way through the middle of it. This runs to the river Tees which has some impressive waterfalls on it.
Coltsfoot Flower (Tussilago farfara)
We went up to High Force first for a nice walk, there's not much wildlife around there because of all the people but it's still nice to see that huge force of nature as well! To get some good photos I had to stand on a rock that was a bit precarious! --->

The walk up to Bowlees was quite fun. We walked along the side seeing some interesting birds, we even saw a Nuthatch in the feeding area! When we got to the end of the walk we found a place called Gibsons Cave which is literally right under a Waterfall!
Me looking at High Force waterfall
Right next to the car park is a place where the stream is quite large, and it was on the banks of it where I happened to see my first ever glimpse of a Crossbill! There must have been about 5 or 6 there all flitting in to get a drink. It was great to see them but they didn't stay around long but just enough for me to get a couple of nice shots.

As a new species for me I had to find out more about them, so, here are some facts:
  • Well you may have guessed how they get their name, the Crossbill has a crossed-bill at the end. An old tale related to Easter is that they got this and their colour from trying to pull the nails out of Jesus's hands and feet when he was on the cross.
  • They have quite a large head and are quite a chunky bird in themselves.
A pair of crossbills
  • One reason why I probably haven't seen them before is because they're usually at the top of pine trees either nesting or eating. 
  • During the Summer months around 40,000 breeding pairs can be seen.
  • I'm not sure how many there are in winter but I read that they have a long breeding season in some parts of their territory - they have been recorded as breeding in every month of the year!
  • They're seen in a lot of the UK but not in central England, the centre of Ireland and some of the far corners of the country.
A male crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)
  • They're a Green status probably as there hasn't been any decline in them. The only threat that I can think of to them would be deforesting of pine trees.
  • They're about 16cm long with a 29cm wingspan. Both Males and Females weigh a rather light 43g.
  • They first breed at 1 year old and they usually live until the ripe old age of 2 years, but the oldest was only 3 years, 2 months and 10 days.
  • So why do they have a crossed bill? Well it allows them to crack open conifer seeds which not many other birds eat. This might be why their population is stable as they have a regular food source and not much competition for it.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. Really enjoyable read and great photos Zach , hope your dads knee gets better soon .

  2. the crossbills are wonderful, and the waterfall amazing too.

  3. Love that shot of the waterfall Zach, gorgeous! - Tasha