Sunday, 20 March 2011

Burrow Hill Fort – Great Grey Shrike

The small village of Hopesay lies tucked away up a narrow road from Clunton with the imposing ‘Burrow Hill’ dominating the landscape from afar. I’d glanced over the previous week whilst on my way back from Clunton Coppice and wondered? Great Grey Shrike there again ?? Lo and behold, news came out last Sunday evening, with more news from MS and RV in the week – a very flighty Shrike – but at least it WAS there!

Not a Sherpa in sight either to help me lug the 12kg of gear, food and water up to the top. I made it without a stop too, apart from the strategically placed gates and stiles which provide a natural ‘break’.

The first 'foothill'......






I made it to the newly enclosed/fenced entrance to the Hill fort where I met a certain John Maddock. I’d met John before, he walks this ‘patch’ once in a while during the Winter and was the person we have to thank for inspiring a population of leaner, fitter Shropshire birders to take up ‘hill walking’. He found this Shrike in both 2010 and 2011 – nice one John!

The good news was, a scope was trained on the distant Shrike, it was on my list then.

Whilst the fence erectors had an eye on ‘double time’ earnings, driving a 4 x 4 under the bird was going to cost me the chance of a record shot – and it did, as the Shrike flew out of sight!

The habitat.....








It was time for lunch anyway, as I settled on a grassy bank and recharged my energy levels. One thing I’ve learned about Shrikes is to play a ‘waiting game’ - they will come back to their favourite perches – eventually.....

30 minutes later, it appeared on the North side of the fort on the top of the tallest tree!

Distant flight shot.....






I then spent the next hour or so watch it perch, watch, fly and hunt always about 100m distant – just hoping it would eventually come nearer? Slowly but surely, it did.....












Eventually, having forgotten I was sat there? It briefly landed low down in the nearest tree about 40m away. It didn’t stay long but at least I got what was to be the best record shots of the day!








By 3.30, the Shrike had tended to disappear onto the slopes below the fort and it was downhill all the way for photography and me – far easier walking down than up!

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