Thursday, 17 November 2011

Red-throated Diver at Rishton reservoir, Lancashire

November 13, 2011:
This bird which had arrived overnight didn't stay long as by mid-morning motor-boats were out on the reservoir and the resulting noise caused the bird to take flight and leave. It circled over the water for five minutes gaining height all the time and when finally a mere speck in the sky, flew off west. The Red-breasted Merganser also present earlier couldn't be relocated either. At least I managed to see these two birds, if only briefly; this contrasted with the previous day when I missed seeing the Richard's Pipit at Longridge by only ten minutes.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Some raptors and passerines photographed at Brockholes Wetlands over the past week

November 6, 2011:
Kestrels are frequently seen hunting over the damp grassland on the Reserve whilst in good weather Buzzards thermal over the adjoining woodland. The Hobbys have long since departed south but Sparrowhawks can occasionally be seen.

[One of the ever-present Kestrels hunting over the marsh]

[A Common Buzzard making use of the thermals]

[A distant and distinctly bedraggled over-flying Sparrowhawk]

Flocks of Goldfinches feed on the thistle and burdock seed-heads and Meadow Pipits and Stonechats are also present, the latter often perching prominently.

[A small flock of five Goldfinches feeding on burdock seed-head]

[Meadow Pipit at the car park]

[Stonechat near the quicksand pool]

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Steppe Grey Shrike in Shropshire

November 1 2011:
This bird at Kynnersley was first seen two days earlier and initially thought to be a Great Grey Shrike. Closer views by the finders led to it being revised to a Steppe Grey Shrike, i.e. a subspecies (pallidirostris) of the Southern Grey Shrike. These are birds of Central Asia and very rare visitors to Britain, this one being well off-course. The previous record was in Lincolnshire three years ago (see below).

It had set up its feeding territory on rather remote agricultural land where it worked along a 500 metre stretch of sparsely vegetated hedgerow adjacent to a recently ploughed field. The bird was always remote to view, never coming within 200 metres and was often double this distance; this consequently made photography very difficult although there were good views through the 'scope. Today, in beautifully warm sunny weather, it perched at several favoured points along the hedge, sometimes on the tips of shrubs in true shrike-like fashion, and would drop down to the ploughed field whenever prey was spotted. It was a very light-grey coloured bird with a noticeably pale beak and a shortish distinctive dark mask. Its contrasting black and white tail feathers and white wing patches showed up well when in flight.

[Photo very close to #16-l, p.66, in 'Shrikes' (Lefranc & Worfolk, 1997)]

[The locality favoured by the Shrike: the long sparse hedgerow alongside the ploughed field]

There was always at least 10-15 people watching the bird at any one time with others constantly coming and going. Donations for car parking would no doubt eventually amount to a tidy sum.

[A few of the watchers]

It was a much more wary bird than the Lincolnshire one seen in 2008. That would happily fly to within a few feet and perch on telescopes or people's heads (see below).

[The very confiding Steppe Grey Shrike at Grainthorpe Haven in Lincolnshire in 2008]