Thursday, 17 October 2013

Lightning Shrikes Twice - Wednesday 16th October 2013

I had a quick trip over to Flamborough Head yesterday, after hearing of all the good birds it was pulling in. Olive-backed Pipit, Rustic Bunting, "Daurian" Isabelline Shrike, to name just a few. Some strong south-easterlies were forecast too, which meant the birds present might stay and possibly be joined by others…

The target for me was the Isabelline Shrike. A fist-winter Daurian Shrike, Lanius isabellinus isabellinus, to be precise. I'd dipped one of these last year, and a bit like the Brown Shrike last month, was eager to get it back. I arrived at dawn and quickly teamed up with three very helpful Cleveland birders: Keith, Colin, and John - cheers guys. None of us were sure quite where the bird was last seen, but fortunately three local birders did and they pointed out the gardens to us. And there flitting around the gorse, brambles and fencing, was the shrike.

A was a very active, flighty bird, rarely staying in view for long. It frequently leapt acrobatically into the air like a flycatcher, to catch a bee and then land on a different perch. With each leap the long red tail showed nicely. It also seemed to to spend a fair amount of its time chasing off other birds, defending its food source. The grid's uppers were a faint brown, tinged grey perhaps mostly from the overcast conditions. It had a dark grey mask (perhaps more like a faded black), which was predominantly behind the eye. I would have preferred a closer view, but understandably, none of us wanted to peer to closely into people's gardens. A cracking bird nonetheless.

The flighty-ness of the bird, the overcast weather, the working days it's been present, and the distance it was showing, all probably add up to a good reason why there are so few photos of the bird (I didn't get a shot either).

I later dipped Olive-backed Pipit at Old Hall Plantation, and not through lack of trying - 3.5 hours of trying… Plenty of Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Redwin, Sparrowhawk, and the odd Brambling in the meantime though. Also, the Rustic Bunting at nearby Millennium Wood proved to too elusive (or already in a different county/country) for me and the dozen or so birders trying to find it. The sort-of pay off was nice views of Yellowhammer and overflying Fieldfare.

A nice day in the field, with a lovely lifer too.

I don't like writing blog posts which don't include pictures, so here's one from this week. It's a spore print my daughter made from a Honey Fungus that my son found on Sunday, while on a Fungi Foray with the kids wildlife group I co-lead: Airedale Otters. Nice, isn't it?

Honey Fungus Armillaria sp

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