23 January, 2010

Some people have all the luck...

Today it seemed to be me. Eventually.

I like Shrikes. They're pretty and slightly psychotic, I imagine when a Robin looks in a mirror, a Shrike is what it sees [at least briefly, before it attacks its reflection]. I remember seeing a picture of the Great Grey Shrike at Fernworthy last year, sitting in a conifer looking at a GSW. You could see it thinking "Hmm, good eating on one of those!" And they are so very pretty.

[Presumably] same GGS has popped up at Bellever last couple of days, so today I went to see it. Having seen [presumably] it there last year, [and Sousson's the year before] I knew it liked to find a fairly quiet bit of turf, out of the wind and in the sun, then patrol a route around it. Assuming it got food and not too many visitors [and the wind didn't change] it could stay in the same spot for a long while. So, stuck the Big Scope in the rucksack and went with the intent of finding said spot and spending a quality hour or three with some nicely crippling 75x views.

Best laid plans and all that.

First we have the "It was here 5 minutes ago..." Coupled with "It went thattaway" . So off I trundled, not too fussed, some nice birds already and it was a glorious day to be up on't Moor. One long circuit of bits of Bellever I hadn't seen for longer than I care to admit and back where I started, still Shrikeless. Time's pressing and I want my lunch - but sitting my behind down when I don't know where the Shrike is is something I'm not happy with at all. The 5 brave birders who arrived too late for the early morning viewing have a sort of discussion. Various birders go various ways. I go for the Tor, thinking for height, or at least somewhere out of the wind. Before I get to the slope - there's the Shrike, lurking in the tops of the new growth trees [looked like it was after the Coal Tits]. But where are all the birders? Nobody in sight! I shift position, hoping to see someone, I lose the Shrike, I find some birders. Time passes. [About 2 hours, I think...] No Shrike. Birders go in various directions. I try the Tor, then circle round the other side of where it was. Back where I started, no Shrike. Time's passing, Sun's westering. Try somewhere else - the Cherrybrook valley has some nice Shrike country. Head that way, sit on a nice bit of old wall, watch a heron pretend to be a Black Stork - [you know the little picture in the Bird Guide of a Black Stork in a conifer? - just like that; I almost fell off the wall laughing at it, then the bugger flew off just as I was pressing the shutter!]. No Shrike, but oh well. Cast my eye about for other possible Shrike spots - hmm, a few low trees by Powder Mills, maybe it we- oh £&@§ there it is! Yes folks, the reason why the Shrike's been so elusive; it flew over to the old Powder Mills [by the big chimney 630771 or so]. Thanks to the wonders of 75x, I got reasonable views for about 40 minutes; it was feeding on small ground stuff, and also occasionally perching in full-size deciduous trees [!] as well as using three 'proper-sized' small trees / large bushes, before it once again waited for me to take my eye off it before pulling a Houdini. Magical birds.

House Sparrows, Dunnocks, Greenfinches, and "That's Mr. Blackcap to you" more evident in the garden, but still a lack of Blackbirds. Has anyone seen them? I'm beginning to wonder if they were abducted by aliens or something....?

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