Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Chilham Shrike !

The Great Grey Shrike ( lanius excubitor), one of those scarce birds that you do not see that often, so I really should have made more effort to see this Shrike, this one has been wintering at Chilham in Kent, since the 16th November 2014.

In fact, I have only seen the Great Grey Shrike on three earlier occasions.

The first was an wintering bird that took up residence in South Norwood Country park back in 1991.

The second, another wintering bird which frequented the Stodmarsh Area from November 92 until March 1993.

The last occasion was a bird seen near Sandwich in 2003.

So when I needed to drop my daughter off in Sittingbourne, the perfect excuse to visit Chilham presented itself, and I was off on my first 'twitch' of the year.

As I neared Chilham the weather  took a turn for the worse, I was driving through a fairly thick mist, visibility  was poor and thoughts of wasted journey were creeping in.

But, as I approached Chilham the mist cleared as quickly as it had appeared, I parked up in the sports centre and made my way along the lane to the bridge where the Shrike had been seen, no other birders on site, was this another bad sign, had I left it too late again to visit.

Its always a bit tense when you make the effort to go on a so called  'twitch', inevitable thoughts of not being able to find the bird, 
or has the bird flown and left the site before you arrive begin to creep in.

I checked the trees in the field close to the bridge, Shrikes like to perch high up and scan the ground for their prey, but no sign, twenty minutes passed by, and nothing seen, I was about to give up when a bird flew over my shoulder from behind, I managed a quick look, it was the Shrike, but I had taken my eye off it and missed where it landed, I checked the hawthorns again alongside the stream, but nothing.

I glanced up at the power line running through the field and there it was on the wires, directly above me, success at last.

After this initial sighting the Shrike moved further away, never coming close enough for a decent photograph, I watched it moving through the hawthorn trees, these birds are known for their ability to impale their prey on thorns, 
and store it for later use, known as a 'larder' .

 This bird did appear to retrieve something from deep inside the tree which it proceeded to eat, it certainly did not catch anything while I was watching at this time.

The Shrike flew across the road to the sheep field, where it took up a typical stance high up in the trees, swooping down to the ground after its prey, and then returning to its vantage point.

I watched this bird for nearly two hours, observing its various hunting techniques and behaviour, although it kept its distance,
 a very enjoyable session with a few record shots to remind me of the time spent with this scarce winter visitor.

No comments:

Post a Comment