7 November 2010

The fastest twitcher in the West

Thanks to various reports on Friday that the great grey shrike was still showing at Napton, I went to bed feeling reasonably confident that I'd been able to track it down in the 45 minutes or so I had free on Saturday morning.

Library photo
Well, it wasn't looking good when I first turned up. For one thing, there was no one else about. Did everyone know something I didn't? I trekked up and down Brickyard Lane, stopped to check out how the fishing was going at the little farm pools there, and then wandered up to the quarry.

Although I still didn't find the shrike, I did get good views of a sparrowhawk, a cormorant heading towards the reservoir(s), large flocks of long-tailed tits, a few smaller groups of small finches (I'm guessing goldfinch and linnet), and a small group of twitchers / photographers down the hill towards the canal. Since they were all settled but chatting , my guesses were a) that was where the bird had been sighted most often and b) it hadn't showed yet.

Right on both counts. But with my 45 minutes having already stretched beyond the hour (boy, was I going to be in trouble) I spotted it on a wire above the canal, not far from where this group had set up. A quick jog of a few hundred yards and there I was, locked on to a great grey shrike just 20 yards of so away. I  enjoyed it for 10 minutes or so, and crept away for family duties and a where-the-hell-have-you-been telling off.

Worth it though ;-)

Bird of the day: Great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor), a stunning predator that is a real autumn / winter gem for UK birders - rare, but not so rare that one can't turn up on pretty much anyone's patch given a bit of luck.

1 November 2010

Hurray for my patch (boo for me)

Well, it's been an absolutely bumper autumn for my patch - that little stretch of land which runs east out of Leamington Spa, as far as Napton-on-the-Hill.

Napton alone has thrown up a magnificent treble of bearded tit, waxwing and great grey shrike, all in the last fortnight. Any one of them would be a patch birder's dream in this part of the world.

Unfortunately this is not the best place to read about them, because I haven't been there :-(

This was partly my own fault (a bit too much time spent fishing, for example) and partly the usual excuses about work / family commitment (violins at the ready please), but it's still jolly annoying.

Anyway, my advice for anyone wanting to know what's happening on my patch would be to visit www.onemanandhispond.blogspot.com and Richard Mays can tell you (since he found all three in the first place). Well done that man, just rewards for many, many hours patient patch birding.

Oh, and by the way, don't give up on me completely - normal service will be resumed soon.

Bird of the season: Frankly, any of the above would have floated my boat!