Saturday, 21 September 2013

Lesser Grey Shrike at Leiston

Yesterday I thought my luck had turned. At last a mega-alert for a bird I needed on the mainland in the shape of a Brown Shrike in Hampshire! There was a snag however as I had to work on Saturday morning until midday at the earliest if I was lucky. To see the bird would require a 4 hour drive so it would be a race against time to get to before dusk. I asked around at work to see if anyone else was available to swap with but everyone was either on holiday, going on holiday or visiting family. I've never thrown a sickie for a bird and anyway, when it comes to Saturday morning surgery, you would have to be on your death bed to get out of it. I once did a Saturday feeling utterly rubbish with flu and a temperature of 104F,and not surprisingly the clients got a rubbish service, but I/they had no choice. It was with a heavy heart that I went into work at 8 o'clock this morning but as the morning wore on and there was no news it was rapidly becoming clear the bird had gone. Eventually the dreaded "no sign" message came through at 9.51 and though disappointed I could relax a little. Ironically I finished work dead on time for once at 12 o'clock.
As some consolation this did give me time to go and see the Lesser Grey Shrike at Leiston after a leisurely lunch although this wasn't even a Suffolk tick. There was plenty of space to park by Halfway Cottages and crossing the road we followed the track down which other birders had come to end up underneath the pylons that lead from Sizewell nuclear power station. The area looked to be perfect shrike habitat, open horse paddocks with numerous bushes and fence posts for a shrike to perch on and hawk insects. We were quickly on to the bird and followed it as it moved from one bush to another, coming close enough for a record shot

It was feeding very actively, making frequent forays to the ground and returning to its perch with various hapless large insects which on occasion appeared to be Lesser Stag Beetles. It was a bird well worth seeing. After having our fill of the shrike we moved on to nearby Minsmere to enjoy the sight of multiple Great White Egrets (singles are more usual), although I suspect this will become a steadily more frequent occurrence.
We only saw two of the three birds at Island Mere (with a Little Egret giving an excellent size comparison) but there was also a very showy (if distant) bittern that remained on view for almost the entire time we were in the hide so it was a worthwhile, if brief, visit. The scrape was very quiet.
So my quest for a tick in 2013 continues. Will my duck be broken soon? Watch this space.

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