Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wall Farm - Steppe Grey Shrike !!

Crikey, could it be?? Pictures would be undoubtedly be needed for the Wall Farm Shrike to be taken seriously as a Steppe contender but..... there I was mid afternoon – 75 miles away!

Taking up the story, Andy Latham had been looking at the Shrike over the usual (long) distance and was convinced this was no ‘ordinary’ Grey Shrike. Access to get a bit nearer had been brokered, it was 2.45pm, the Heron was still not showing so I started a breakneck journey to get back and hopefully see it / photograph it before the light went.

Arriving at 4.10 and parking up, there was still the yomp to the hide and across the field to contend with. Rich Vernon had just arrived too and it must have been gone 4.30 before we got to the edge of the wetland overlooking the ploughed field. The light was dropping FAST but the Shrike was in view about 100m distant in the loose hedgerow. It was still feeding fortunately and after each foray to the ground (usually to the ploughed field) it ended up a little nearer…..

It seemed to always sit ‘head on’, the bill was certainly quite pale and the black mask was a really striking feature – sharply cut off at the eye!

I sensed a flight shot or two might be useful but it was virtually dark now – quite a challenge! Cranking the ISO up to 1600 and panning, I got a couple of half decent distant images showing the extensive white wing patch and tail pattern

After disappearing for 10 mins or so it reappeared and at last sat with a side on / rear showing view – just what I had been waiting for! How I kept these shots sharp, I don't know – 1/6th second exposure!

I’ll quite honestly say at this point, it was virtually impossible to study the bird, given the light I just kept on it, clicking and hooping! The consensus of the gathered locals was that this bird WAS looking good for Steppe Grey Shrike and if the images were useable (what you see above!) then ‘expert opinion’ would be sought to further confirm matters that evening!

Andy had a few contacts to seek opinion from and Rich had details for Martin Garner. Images were posted out by 9.00 pm and by 11.00, Martin at least had got back to confirm this looked good for ‘pallidirostris’. Martin's is jetting off but plans to blog the bird later too! News had also got out to BirdGuides by then too but unbeknown to them, there was going to be one hell of a problem regarding parking and access!

Luckily after some feverish negotiation first thing Monday morning by Andy and with me trying to keep BirdGuides up to speed, with developments a field was ‘setaside’ (an appropriate use for a field eh ) for parking! The twitch was now seriously ON but with my car being serviced today (Monday) and work all week, the Shrike is out of bounds for me – let’s hope some good pictures in decent light come out and the identity is further validated......