Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Shrike.

Great Grey Shrike hunting from wires.

 In my last post I was praising the virtues of the local birding around the market town of Alnwick. This is our local town for shopping etc so its a place that we visit weekly if not more. As for wildlife, we like to get on to the uplands around the town mainly to get away from the visitors along the coast, but it does host some interest for the naturalist too, so its a win win.

For years around the March and April time the conversation often drifts around the the potential for a passage Great Grey Shrike hunting the heath up here. There are bees, lizards and large caterpillars to feed on and the place looks ideal. A good few years ago, John was lucky enough to see one such bird on the moor beyond Corbys Crag, near Widehope. I'm not sure who found it, but it was long gone before I made it up there, so when the local WhatsApp group sprang into life on Good Friday with news that there was a Great Grey Shrike on the wires near the communication mast up on the moor I wasn't surprised, just a little excited.

The bird was found at dusk, so I wasn't going to get up there on the day but come Saturday it was time for a visit. To begin with, there were no other birders around but it was cloudy and cool so I felt it would still be here. Shrikes are mostly day migrants, so after a cool night it might hang around to feed and warm up.

Sure enough after some systematic scanning of over head wires, there it was, doing what Shrikes do. Perched aloft, tail wavering in the breeze for balance while its large head tipped and twisted forward scanning the ground for prey. Although it made some dips to the deck and onto roadside marker posts, I didnt see any prey, though others did see it catch lizards.  

Decent scope views were had and I didnt want to get too close, knowing how flighty these birds usually are, so no photos worth posting. I did take some phone scope shots just to get a drawing reference. 

As I write this, the bird has been present all day, receiving a steady procession of visitors to our area that sees very few binocular scans over the year. Thanks to the finder too for getting the news out...     

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