Spurn Part One – My Year of the Shrike

Until this year, I’d never seen any species of shrike in the wild, at least not to an extent I could satisfy myself of*. This year, I’ve managed to up that to two species. That may seem quite a small number to call it a year of the shrike, but there aren’t that many you can see here, and there aren’t that many ‘new’ birds I have left to encounter in the UK. So for me, it’s a startling acceleration!

The first, the Red-Backed Shrike in May, I’ve blogged about before. I’ve now added another, at Spurn, this week. It had been well reported that there were Great-Grey Shrikes (Lanius excubitor) at Spurn, so we decided to go have a look. Last time I went to Spurn, hoping to see Golden Oriole, I saw nothing. But my newly acquired shrike-skills meant I was more optimistic of spotting a butcher bird. They don’t skulk in bushes, they sit out atop trees and bushes. They are sharp-eyed though, and will duck out of sight, so I knew I’d have to be alert.

After a long walk along the point (the road is out), and many birds I’ll blog about in a subsequent post, I finally spotted the shrike:

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Great-Grey Shrike, honestly
Spurn, October 2013

What do you mean “that could be anything”?

Okay, it’s at a distance and pretty vague. But the colour, pattern and shape all told me (and you) it was a Great-Grey Shrike. It soon moved, allowing a slightly better view:

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Great Grey Shrike, posing in front of a lighthouse
Spurn, October 2013

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Great Grey Shrike
Spurn, October 2013

While a much better view, and hopefully clear to you, I still wasn’t happy. I thought I could get a better shot if I got another look.

The shrike was moving up and down the Chalk Bank area, and sure enough we soon got a second opportunity near the bird ringing area:

Great Grey Shrike Spurn, October 2013

Great Grey Shrike
Spurn, October 2013

Even at small size on the screen here, that’s a nice clear image. I tried to stalk up on it for a closer shot, and believed I’d been very stealthy. But as soon as I popped out of cover, the sharp-eyed shrike was gone. We wandered on to the point, happy with the views we’d had, then headed back to the car. But the shrike wasn’t done with us. As Dad stopped for a comfort break, I looked out across the thorn bushes. Sure enough, there was the shrike once more:

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Great Grey Shrike
Spurn, October 2013

Just as I started to say “You’ll not get a better view than this…” he moved once more, giving us our final, and best, view:

Great Grey Shrike Spurn, October 2013

Great Grey Shrike
Spurn, October 2013

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Farewell to the shrike

A wonderful bird giving wonderful views, and an undoubted highlight of the year for me.

I’ll have another couple of posts on Spurn over the weekend.

* In Granada in Spain a few years back I thought I spotted a Great-Grey Shrike in the woods around the Alhambra, but never got a second look to be certain.

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One Response to Spurn Part One – My Year of the Shrike

  1. Pingback: Heslington Tilmire | Why watch wildlife?

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