Having already dipped on the 2 reported 'Two-Bar's' in the Forest of Dean the previous week, and their extreme rarity this far inland/South-west a repeat visit was already on the agenda. However, they weren't seen again for the majority of the week.
However, the day before the planned visit to try for the Great-Grey Shrike which was also present, news emerged of a mega flock of 17 which of these stunning northern trumpeters had re-appeared, the largest flock of this rare eruptive species in modern history!
Anyway, the Forest looks stunning at this time!
Needless to say, the next morning a fair gathering had gathered. An early morning report increased my optimism while driving down but upon arriving on site it emerged that these birds were infact Chaffinch's! And from there most hope seemed to drain, after a couple of hours standing 'near' to the increasingly noisy twitchers, and with not a sniff i got fed up and went to look for the Shrike. A circuit of Crabtree hill and surrounding area's failed and we reluctantly returned to the crowd.
And so i walked off down the track.
We walked off at a complete tangent to everyone else and ended up on the track immediately to the west of the 'main' track where the crowds were waiting. At least i was searching for them rather than most of the gathering!
(Later i learned that after 10 minutes of leaving the crowd 2 separate flocks of 3 and 8 Two-Bars appeared!)
I failed to locate any of the target species but soon the track opened onto a clearing, and at the back of that clearing stood a stunning GREAT-GREY SHRIKE!
It wasn't particularly showy however, and i didn't try to approach it, so only some distant photos.
Great-Grey Shrike are somewhat of an icon of winter birding for me, and it is always great to catch up with this species perching sentinel over its winter territory.
After a good time watching the Shrike, and having a flock of 10-15 HAWFINCH pass through the tree's behind us which was a great bonus we decided to head back to the crowd.
We approached from the Crabtree hill side to be told that only minuites before there had been a couple in the trees above them!
While i was informed about this the group a hundred or so feet away frantically waved us down. A second passed and i realized they were still watching them!
A quick jog- a hard task i wellies- and one of the birders put me onto a male and female TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL perched up on the top of a dead conifer! Awesome!
Both of the birds wing bars were massive and so obviously not one of the 'wing barred' Common Crossbills that seem to be reported as Two-bars across the country this winter. The male in particular was completely outstanding, with its body colour being very different, a very attractive raspberry red/pink. Not wanting to hog the birders scope (Who turned out to be 'Username' off Birdforum) i started to set up my own, and just as i set it down, a Common Crossbill landed next to them, and they flew off deeper into the plantation. Another hour and not a sight not sound and we decided to leave. Happy that i had gotten both my 'target species'.