Sunday, 13 December 2009

Brown Shrike (Lanius-cristatus) Staines Moor. 10/12/2009

Staines Moor

I returned to Staines Moor today for the 4th time to see the Brown Shrike which has now been present for over 2 months. With the storms that have constantly raged across most of the country now easing off and clear skies returning it made perfect sense to spend what little time I had free with the long-staying Brown Shrike. With overcast skies now making way for sunshine and blue skies I hoped that I could at last get some really good photos. I had visited a week before when a break in the weather tempted me back to the moor to attempt some photos only to arrive and the clouds close-in. I was pi**ed off to say the least as when I had left home it was a beautiful sunny winters day and as I entered the moor the overcast skies closed in and the light dropped giving me little chance of any decent photos, it was a real pity as the bird was perched in a hawthorn bush 200yards from the footbridge. Don't get me wrong it was an absolute pleasure to see the bird up close and in full view but I couldn't help cursing the weather for ruining my attempts to photograph it, my attempts were blurred and disappointing as you will see from the photo below but despite this I had the best views of the Brown Shrike to date. If you're going to see it I think It's certainly worth looking at the bushes on the left-handside of the river after crossing the footbridge before you go stomping out on to the moor.

Brown Shrike

I arrived at Hithercroft Rd(TQ040743) and made my way along the footpath which is now a mud and water filled quagmire(wear boots if your going to see it!) and entered the Staines Moor, in front was a small group of birders viewing the thickets to the right of the bridge where the Shrike was TQ033735. The Shrike was quite active as usual dropping to the floor on occasion whilst hunting and then disappearing behind the thickets, I noted a few Bumble Bees during my stay so I presume it's still feeding well and there must be a good number of Beetles etc about. It remained at distance for long periods and continued to feed. I wandered along the footpath after being told a few Water Pipits were present around the flooded areas of the Moor and it didn't take long to hear Pipit calls above the traffic noise from the nearby motorway, locating them was another problem. The constant noise soon drowned out the calls as I got closer and it was only when a Stonechat flushed a couple of "small brown jobs" from a flooded pool 70yrds in front of me did I get to see anything, one was a Meadow Pipit which flew in to a bush where it was soon joined by a few others but one bird dropped down to the edge of the pool. I inched myself closer to see over the tops of the grass and along the edge of the pool finding a Water Pipit feeding, it wandered along the edge of the pool giving me just enough time to view this dumpy grey-brown pipit with a clear white eye stripe and wingbars before it took flight across the moor, I searched again for it without any luck so headed back towards the Shrike viewing point.

Brown Shrike

As I approached the footbridge in the distance I noticed a brilliant blue object sat in one of the Hawthorn trees, through my binoculars I could see it was a Kingfisher which was peering down in to the river below. I took a wide berth and grabbed my camera and readied my scope, it was way to far to digiscope effectively and I hoped by walking slowly away and around it rather than towards it I would be able to get in range. It was some way off but I managed to slowly approach it without disturbing it, with the backdrop of the Hawthorn berries it looked spectacular and in true fashion as I took my 3rd photo it flew to another bush and then off down the river. Even without managing to get any good photos they are always a pleasure to see so I was happy all the same. I've seen this behaviour before on the Berks/Bucks border near Hambleden Weir where they sit in the trees on the River Thames bank watching the water below them, it always seems to be in winter and I presume the river is choppier and a higher vantage point is probably better to see prey from.


So I was just getting over the fantastic view of the Kingfisher when I noticed a large bird sat in the top of one of the many thickets around the footbridge, closer inspection showed it was a female Pheasant which was feeding on the berries in the bush. Lets face it Pheasants probably are given little respect due to the fact they can come across as incredibly daft birds at the best of times, I'm sure many of us have been in situations where a Pheasant has decided to cross the road in front of us only to turn round and head back where it came from. Despite this they are clever birds which adapt to the best of opportunities, I have watched them at close quarters feeding from bird tables and using Squirrel guards to stand on to use bird feeders where they feed happily.

The problem is Pheasants aren't the smallest birds and although she acrobatically tried to pick off the berries from the top of the bush the small branches she was perched on couldn't take her weight and eventually she fell out of the bush and on to the ground below. Had it been anything else, especially a human they would have no doubt caused an injury, this Pheasant just fluffed her feathers looked over her shoulder as if to see if anybody was watching then sauntered off through the grass, an amusing moment of mother nature to say the least.


The Brown Shrike showed briefly again before disappearing again and while waiting for it to reappear I noticed a Fieldfare fly in to a bush next to the five of us now watching the Shrike. The Fieldfare soon started feeding on the Hawthorn berries which gave me the opportunity to get a few photos. I've always found Fieldfare relativity timid and getting close enough to get a good photo can be extremely difficult, this bird seemed more interested in feeding and although wary remained long enough for me to get a couple of photos before it was time to leave.


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