Thursday, 9 October 2008

Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) - Ivinghoe, Bucks. 8th Oct 2008.

With news that a Great Grey Shrike had been reported at Ivinghoe, Bucks I made a mid-afternoon visit to see if I could catch up with it. I made it to Ivinghoe and parked up in the car park, meeting a couple of departing birders I was informed that the Great Grey Shrike was still present and showing well. I made my way across the road and up the public footpath and soon found myself walking alongside a stubble field, just as I was wondering where I had to go a gentleman appeared from next to the hedgerow with camera in hand and I realised I was in the right spot.

As I peered through the hedgerow I soon spotted the Shrike perched in a tree in front of me, it slowly made its was along the hedgerow towards where we were viewing it from, by the time it had come in to close range I had set my scope and camera up and began snapping away. My experiences with Great Grey Shrikes are rather slim and with the exception of a single bird at Wishmoor Bottom on the Berks/Surrey border which showed quite well, all my other views have been across fields and distant hedgerows, certainly nothing to write home about and almost impossible to digiscope well because of distance and poor weather conditions. I was hoping today would be an exception, the afternoon sun was bearing down and it highlighted the Shrike up beautifully as it flew closer to us before perching in the hedgerow some 30-40ft away, close views gave me a good chance to see the faint barring on the breast and of course fantastic views of its black "Zorro" like mask and white eyestripe, a very striking individual indeed. As the bird sat quietly I resumed taking a few more photos and was unaware that I had caught it regurgitating a food pellet, it wasn't till I looked quickly later did I realise I had a fairly decent photo of what I thought was it eating something. With the Great Grey Shrike feeding on Insects, Mice, Voles and small birds they often regurgitate insect casings, fur and other indigestible items in a small pellet, they also store surplus prey by impaling them on a sharp thorn or even barb wire returning to feed on them later, these are known as "larders". The Great Grey Shrike then moved off flying along the hedgerow often perching at the top of a few dead tree branches, continually scanning the ground beneath it continued along the hedgerow away from us and then flew over to the east side of the hedge. A few steps to our right and we were back watching it again and it continued hunting the hedgerows for sometime, catching what looked like both a Beetles taken from the ground and also a Bumble Bee caught out of sight.

A familiar face in Mike and Rose Collard appeared at the bottom of the footpath and after viewing the Shrike from further down the path they walked up and joined us. The Shrike moved along the hedgerow towards us again and showed incredibly well often scanning the ground for prey before swooping down in an attempt to catch it, it then disappeared and whilst waiting for it to reappear we spotted both a Fox and single Fallow Deer on the far side of fields. The Fox looked incredibly bright and clean with a red and amber glint as the sun shone down on it and we watched as it wandered off along the fields before it was lost to view. The Shrike then reappeared on the far side of the hedgerow and we watched as it dropped down to some bushes at the foot of the tree, it was here where we got a glimpse of the Shrike eating prey from it's larder, although the views were partly obscured it certainly looked like a Vole or Mouse that was being partly devoured. It didn't seem to feed for long so my assumption would be that it didn't eat everything and would return later, it soon returned to the top of the trees where it cleaned its bill and preened before moving along to the next perching point. At one point it flew to the public footpath hedgerow and perched in full view and later was joined by 2 Mistle Thrushes who were intent on feeding on the Hawthorn berries in the same tree, a quick stand off ensued with the outcome being the Shrike seemed undeterred and remained perched at the top of the tree, one Mistle Thrush flew off and the other dropped down to feed on the berries. I left at 5:45pm with the bird still showing well. The Great Grey Shrike is best viewed from public footpath next to the stubble field, peer through the hedge at a number of spots to view the Shrike. SP950157

I left the car park at Ivinghoe and followed Mike and Rose to Startops Reservoir where we watched the 2 juvenile Little Gulls which were flying low over the water catching insects. Great views of both Little Gulls which showed the black "W" markings across the upperwing.

The sun was now starting to go down and I had just enough time to drop in to Wilstone Reservoir on the way home. The 2 feral Whopper Swans were both present and circling round and round the lake, Little Egret in the cemetery corner, 2 Dunlin, Lapwing and Golden Plover all present in the south corner, no sign of either Ruff or Spotted Redshank present earlier in the week.

Added To My Year List

210. Great Grey Shrike

1 comment:

Bewdley Birds said...

Superb Great Grey Shrike pictures Ashley!

Sounds like a wonderful experience.