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Nature lovers are flocking to Kielder Water & Forest Park to see a spectacle of nature.
Thousands of crossbills have appeared in the 62,000 hectare (155,000 acre) Northumberland wilderness attracted by the abundance of seed offered by an excellent cone crop this year.
Once chicks fledge the bird is most often encountered in noisy family groups or larger flocks, usually flying close to treetop height and feeding acrobatically, fluttering from cone to cone. Male crossbills have a distinctive brick-red hue, while females are greenish-brown, all adding a dash of colour to the forest winter scene.
Martin Davison, Forestry Commission ornithologist who has worked in Kielder for over 30 years monitoring and protecting bird life, said:
"Some years the bird fails to show up at all, so getting such large numbers is something special. It all depends on how good the cone crop is and this year it is very good indeed. It's impossible to say how many have arrived, but a guess could put it as high as 10,000 pairs. That could be the biggest breeding population in the country at the moment.”
Crossbills have chicks in January and February, which take to the wing in March. By the of May they begin to leave, so you will need to get your skates on to see the thronging sight. Look out for the bird hanging upside down like a parrot stripping seed from cones.
To celebrate the area's spectacular wildlife Wild at Kielder is being launched by Kielder Partnership with a thrilling goshawk walk on 5 March. To find out more about this and other events go to www.visitkielder.com/ or call 01434 220242.
Note to editor
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more information go to www.forestry.gov.uk/NorthEastEngland.
Media calls to Richard Darn on 01226 246351, mobile 0775 367 0038.