July 10, 2011

Less, er - is more!

Lesser Grey Shrike has been on the target list for more years than I would like to even think about, or admit. Never twitched one, never been anywhere when one has turned up, and crucially never seen one anywhere else in the world. Just another of the very long list of gaps in my BOU spreadsheet to fill. So a 3:30 alarm call again! A solitary trip this one as nobody needed it but me. Sandwiches packed, coffee in the car and Sat nav programmed so it was to St David's in Pembrokeshire. I did think that it may be easier if I went via M6/5/4 but the very nice lady from TomTom said I should go from Liverpool via Wrexham, Oswestry, Newtown, Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Fishguard, St David's and finally onto the tiny hamlet of St Justinian's - 197 miles. A little over three and a half hours later and I was unpacking the camera in a fantastic little car park overlooking the St Justinian's RNLI station. Two miles off shore was the RSPB Reserve of Ramsey Island.  No sooner was I out of the car when I bumped into the husband of the finder of the bird, and he had bads news. The bird was not present in the field that it had been feeding in for the last five days. The deadly 'D' word appeared front & centre of my thoughts. Nah surely it would not have gone last night with low cloud & rain on site? Would it? Determined to find the bird again I walked off to where it was last seen on Friday afternoon.

The coastal path here is reminiscent of Scilly and a great walk up to where the bird was last seen. There I found Richard Stonier who had been on site for over an hour and could not find the bird. We were in the right location but the bird had obviously either gone as the finder had said or moved. We decided to move further north and away from from the car park. It was not longt before the bird was picked up by Richard at great distance in a horse paddock with a resident white horse. Richard needed this bird as well but it was the most distant shrike in the history of time - ever! Even more distant than the Flamborough Brown Shrike To illustrate below is an uncropped image taken at 700mm on my 7D.

The Shrike had decided it had had enough of parading in front of the locals all week and relocated to some private land with No Access. Great! As it was so far away I took to watching it on Live View and could see that it was a small shrike with small bill and broad black bandit mask, even with a slight hint of pink on the flanks, which strangely does not show on the attched images. UTVs in my binos but better on the back of the camera. But is watching a bird on the back of the camera a bit like watching it on TV? Closer views had to be had. I eventually got a lot closer to the bird and watched at fairly close quarters but never frame filling views. It stayed close to the horse paddocks and was catching wasps for most of the morning. I hear that later the bird 'Surrendered' and went back to the area that it had been feeding all week, but by then I was on my back home

I had more fun from a photo aspect with a Skylark that was busy collecting food to take back to the nest. It would sing from a post before going to collect food, then return to the same or adjacent post before going back to the nest to feed it's burgeoning family.

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