Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Masked Shrike at Kilnsea

This last week has been a bit twitchy for me. An extremely rare bird was reported last Saturday (20th), a third record for the U.K. in the shape of a Masked Shrike. This bird is normally found in North East Greece, West and South Turkey and Southern Israel, but had found itself in the small hamlet of Kilnsea in East Yorkshire, close to the Spurn peninsula. Everybody went as soon as they possibly could, Sunday the 21st seemed to be the most popular day and over the week the reports and the photos kept appearing and I was well and truly gripped with tales of the bird showing down to 30 ft, but I just didn't have any time to make the 3 hour one way trip. That was until Sunday just gone. I had some very rare free time and so managed to talk Lisa into accompanying me on this twitch.

The long journey was uneventful and we arrived at Kilnsea and managed to grab the last parking space, dodging past numerous birders on their way to the shrikes haunt. The bird had moved field during the morning and so we followed the hoards to this new site. The bird was seen straight away perched in a very distant hedgerow, at least 400 m away, but the white blob was very obvious against the dark of the hawthorn hedge. The scope views were excellent, the bird always on the move, hunting craneflies and grasshoppers. It was most certainly not being as accommodating as the previous week and never coming very close and also disappearing over the other side of the hedge frequently. The closest it ever came during our 6 hour vigil was about 200 m when I managed to get some truly awful record shots, which have been heavily cropped and are below.

The twitch was then shattered by the appearance of some locals who started to ride a miniature motorbike around the field, going right up to the hedge in question and unsurprisingly spooking the shrike which promptly disappeared. Grumblings were made, but we discovered that these locals had permission to be in the field, something that we had not (unbeknown to most of us there). Lisa and I left at this point and had a very pleasant meander around the vicinity until we thought that we had better start making a start at the 3 hour return trip.

As I have stated, this is only the third time that a Masked Shrike has been recorded in this country. They have all been juvenile/first-winter birds, with the first being at Kilrenny in Fife for 17 days in Oct 2004 and the second being a one day wonder on St.Mary's on Scilly in Nov 2006.

A great bird and a very welcome 'tick'.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The serenity of a Swan

Swans do make a good subject for a photographer numpty like me. They are big and tend not to swim or fly away at the first sight of you, enabling a close proximity between subject and photographer. This young Mute Swan was one of 4 at Baston Fen the other day, feeding on the river which lies alongside the nature reserve.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Lesser Grey Shrike at Shingle Street, Part 2

You're looking the wrong way!
As promised, the rest of the 'better' photographs from my recent 'twitch' to Suffolk. Digital photography is a wonderful thing, enabling me to take over 500 photos and delete the vast majority of 'dross' to be left with these few slightly better than 'dross' images.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Lesser Grey Shrike at Shingle Street in Suffolk

Have spent most of the day in deepest, darkest Suffolk. Shingle Street to be exact, a small hamlet on the coast which is famous for attracting lots of migrants. This Lesser Grey Shrike was first reported yesterday and was a lifer for me, so with having some free time today I went and 'twitched' this rarity.

On arrival at the site there was disappointing news in the way of a negative report. I decided to trudge to the beach area anyway, where there were a few birders looking hopefully on the nearby bushes. On the way I met a man and a lady who had just seen it, but it had flown over the other side of the river, where they were going to next to try and track it down. I thought that I would hang around where I was in the hope that it might come my way. On scanning the distance I noticed a shrike like blob on the top of a bramble bush, immediately looking through my scope I could see that it was the bird, hurrah! I managed to get the assembled birders onto it and we all enjoyed good, but distant views.

A true 'record' shot if ever there was one!
The bird was indeed on the other side of the river and so, after enjoying the views at distance I decided to walk back to where I had come from and back up the other bank. Me and a few other birders managed to get quite close which enabled some better views and closer photos.

The bird was seen hunting on numerous occasions, catching large quantities of bumblebees as can be seen (hopefully) in the first photo and was showing exceptionally well. I have only gone through a few photos at the moment, so I may come back and bore you, dear reader, with some more after I have waded through the hundreds of images on my memory card.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Red-necked Grebe at Rutland Water

This bird has been present at Rutland Water for a few days now and has given me the chance to catch up with a bird that I have only ever seen twice before. It was hanging around at the dam end of the reservoir and showing very well amidst the gloom and damp of a fine summer evening. A bird that is more common around the coast where a few hundred overwinter each year.

Showing the difference in size and appearance to the more 'common' Great Crested Grebe.