Sunday, 7 March 2010

Shrike twitch - DONE!

The safari set off on late and still very frosty cold (-3C) Patch 1 walk this morning full of anticipation for the day ahead. A female Sparrowhawk flew low overhead and flap flap glided in to the distance. Meanwhile one of the Peregrines was giving its vocal chords plenty of early morning exercise from the top of the tower. not a bad start to the day.
Then it was back home to put together a flask of coffee, some Wensleydale and brown sauce butties and grabbing a pocketful of doggie bickies.
After picking up our Extreme Photographer we hit the motorway and headed east. The safari's limit is about an hour's travel these days and the shrike was just inside this limit. Sally Sat-Nav dulcet tones took us right to the site, which was adjacent a pub favoured by my grandad many many years ago. This safari took us to a road we haven't been on since the mid 1960s!
Parking up there were a few birders already on site and they had seen the bird that morning but it had gone to ground. Hopefully it hadn't gone far - certainly not over the hill to the other site a mile or so away it was at last week. It hadn't. After a short wait and a chat with some old acquaintances we haven't seen for a number of years Extreme Photographer saw it fly in to a prominent perch at the top of a nearby tree where I missed it cos I was looking at a Great Tit at the other side of said tree. Perfect position for some good photos - not too far away, blue sky backdrop, full morning sunlight illuminating it. Great Grey Shrike (111) in the bag! A useful unexpected bonus tick for the year. By next December it might have made up for not finding something 'simple', like Goldcrest!
Unfortunately no sooner had we swung our scopes round it flew past us and down the hill where it was more distant, against a grotty grey, hazy industrial townscape and directly into the light. A good many digiscope shots were taken but these two are the only ones anywhere near worth posting - you can just about make out it is what it is if you squint hard!

After a coupla minutes it disappeared along a broken down dry stone wall and wasn't seen for some timeThe supporting cast included a fearless Reed Bunting which landed a wing-tip away on the wires not realising the danger obviously, a few chaffinches and a tidy female Kestrel. Satisfied with the tick, if not the photos, we decided to chance our luck another site. Pointing the Land Rover up and over the hill we aimed for Brennand and the elusive stuff that lurks there.
As Frank is still only allowed short walks so we didn't do the whole valley but only went about half way. Buzzards outnumbered Kestrels but no other more exciting raptors were seen. At our butty stop we did get another tick for the year, Siskin (112) a nice fly-past song flight, later we saw a flock of about a dozen over the forest. Some Crossbills had been as seen recently as yesterday but no such luck today. all in all it was very quiet up there - bring on the insects, plants and reptiles to make the walk a bit more worthwhile.
A newborn lamb added a little interest, its mother kicking up a stink as we walked past seemingly not knowing wether to run and leave or stay and defend it, we walked quickly on to let her get to know her new offspring.
With time still in hand we set off for another moorland site hoping for at least Red Grouse, as the whole area is managed for them as can be seen in the 'patchwork' effect on the photo below. If it enlarges that is)

Again not much was about but we did eventually catch up with a pair of Nuthatches and all our wisshing and willing was rewarded with a good 'yaffle' from a Green Woodpecker (113). Try as we might we couldn't find it but it was duly ticked off - our rule is; if you would count it on a CBC or BBS BTO survey then it goes on the list. More buzzards were seen here along with a few Lapwings just returning to their upland nesting fields. What a lovely sound their song is. A good few Stock Doves were also flying around somewhat out of habitat as there aren't any arable fields for miles.
Best thing we saw here was a willy-willy. There wasn't a breath of wind not enough to ruffle our hair but a few feet away in the field some large pieces of loose grass and straw were being whipped up in a mini tornado.
It all got a bit much for our Extreme photographer, beautifully warm in the afternoon sunshine. Absolutely silent at times too - not a human made sound, or sound of any description to be heard, occassionaly broken by the bleating of a sheep or a rustle of wind in the trees - gorgeous.

A good days safariing nearly tourned sour on the way home. For some unknown reason we were discussing car insurance when around a tight bend appeared a car heading directly for us. Evasive action was taken without going over the edge in to the stream - fortunately our adversary didn't clip the back end of the Land Rover and all was well.

The sunshine brought out lots of convertables this arvo - a times I thought we were on the Strip at Las Vegas or cruising the west coast highway.

Bloomfield Road provided a 1-0 win. Hard fought and scrappy. At times almost unbearable at the other end but a ground-out win is better than an easy draw. 50 points attained, no chance of relegation and 10 more games to play. A top half finish is deffo on the cards - a play-off place maybe???

Where to next? Looking forward to Patch 2 tomorrow - hope it's good.
In the meantime let us know who's nearly crashed in your outback this weekend.


Forest the Bear said...

Great days birding you had there Dave. Lovely warm sunshine, fantastic scenery, loads of birds with a Grey Shrike thrown in....CONGRATS on that!!!

Monika said...

Some nice ticks Dave! Every time I think I'm closing in on you, you manage to pull ahead by a few again. Your great gray shrike is the same as our northern shrike, yes?