Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Grey Shrike at last! Cliffe Pools

Sparrowhawk (female)
Sparrowhawk (female)

Great Grey Shrike

I have finally managed to get a Great Grey at Cliffe Pools on Sunday, it was a stunning bird, though distant. I got great views of it hunting and managed to get reasonable views of its plumage through the MM2 fieldscope (our good scope is off being fixed because I dropped it and a couple of days ago I dropped the MM2 as well, which neither me or dad took to very well). I spent most of the time there watching the Shrike but I did see another 33 species (boosted by a quick visit to one of the pools). There were 2 female Kestrels around the area. A very pleasant surprise came in the shape of a female Sparrowhawk, and my dream had finally come true- it was perched! I got great views through the scope and some rushed so blurry record shots of it.
I did see a strange looking bird which I identified and reported as 'a possible Red-backed Shrike seen distantly'. I posted photos on birdforum.net and the opinions of the members were almost exactly 50:50 for a Whitethroat/Lesser Whitethroat and a Red-backed Shrike. At first, seeing the responses I was convinced it was a Red-backed Shrike because in the field it did not look one tiny bit like a Sylvia species. But one person commented saying he saw a female Reed Bunting the following day which looked very similar and he said it definitely was the same leucistic female he had seen, so to this day I am convinced its correct identity is leucistic female Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. It is a shame because I genuinely thought it was my first self found rarity, although strictly speaking, it is not a rarity (description not required by BBRC).
Many Great Black-backed Gulls passed overhead, totalling 30. Other birds around the common where the shrike was included about 30 Goldfinch, a few Meadow Pipit and Linnet, good views of Stonechat and a few more.
The pool we visited for ten minutes at the end of the trip produced: an Avocet, about 250 Lapwing, 41 Ringed Plover, a Ruff and 3 Snipe.
It was a great day with a lifer and a good variety of species.

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