For various reasons I found myself in Cambridge with 5 hours to spare which was 2 hours more than I had expected. I had planned on going to Wicken Fen but 5 hours is a long time to spend there so a quick look on birdguides and 50 minutes later I was pulling in to the car park at Lynford Arboretum and narrowly avoiding the scrum of birders. 51 minutes later I was being directed toward a stand of trees where a small flock of Common Crossbills was flitting around as apparently the target bird was popping in and out, and at 52 minutes bang! There it was, an irridescent raspberry coloured male with a pair of striking white wing bars on black coverts. A Two-barred Crossbill, just one of the 50+ birds to have invaded the UK in this year of Crossbill irruptions. It was a veritable piece of vivid tropical fruit in a bowl of apples. If only every tick was that simple. For the person next to me it was his 5th trip to see it. After that I wondered down the paddocks where some Hawfinches had been seen earlier. My luck had run out with just some more Crossbills and a Marsh Tit.
There was some speculation on whether this is genuinely a two-barred crossbill or is a variant of Common Crossbill, mainly due to the widths of the bars not being text book. And there was also some speculation that this is just the current trend to query absolutely everything. I tend to the latter. After all, this was not just a common crossbill with some white on the wings, it was a completely different colour; easily picked out from the others head on with no bars visible. And the wing bars weren't pale edges of coverts, they were strong and visible white patches.
But if it is a common Crossbill then its an even better tick than a two-barred crossbill, because in a year when there are 50+ 2bXbills in the country, we were looking at the one bird which is the rare double wing-barred raspberry coloured variant of Common Crossbill.
And thence to Wicken Fen. My first visit and I was quite impressed at the scale of the place, although if you want Short-Eared Owls then Burwell Fen out the back of Wicken is apparently the place to go. Bird-wise it was less impressive being a largely barren reed bed. A pair of Marsh Harriers, some Fieldfares, some Shovellers, and a distant small deer (Muntjac?) being the list. I left the Tower Hide before the Hen Harriers appeared and headed back to Cambridge.