Saturday, 11 September 2010

Red-backed Shrike at Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire

September 11, 2010:
Far out on the flat agricultural marshland at Frodsham and quite close to the Mersey estuary, a Red-backed Shrike had been reported present two days earlier. Known to be still there this morning it was thought well worth the one hundred mile round-trip to see it.

For all three days, it had apparently kept to just a small area perhaps one hundred metres wide. The attractions here were obvious, many fence posts for perching and an abundance of thistle plants which were attracting a variety of insects. Although it took a wasp on one occasion butterflies were its main prey, as it routinely dropped off the posts every minute or so to take Small Tortoiseshells from the thistle heads. Back on its post, the wings were neatly discarded before it devoured its catch. The unfortunate butterflies were a very easy prey and this seemed a cruel example of nature where such beautiful but defenceless creatures had no chance against a hungry shrike. Indeed it must have been hungry as it never attempted to store food on the nearby barbed wire fence. I watched it for almost three hours rarely closer than 100 metres and often much more and suspect that it was probably an immature female.

The site with the bird at distance just visible on a post to right of centre and the large industrial chemical plant in the background

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