Saturday 12 November 2016

Great Grey Shrike

This is possibly the worst photograph of a Great Grey Shrike ever taken. Below is the uncropped photo that will give you an idea of how well hidden this bird was.
I realised a long-held ambition to find my own Great Grey Shrike this afternoon. I headed to a spot, late afternoon, that I've spent many hours sitting at. It affords a panoramic view below Woodbury Fort. I was hoping for a Harrier or Shrike but, as always, it's a bit of a shock when your plan actually pays off! I'd been scanning for about 15 minutes when, at about 4pm, I started looking through a noisy flock of Meadow Pipits just east of my position. To my surprise I picked out a larger bird amongst them, quite high up. My initial reaction on clocking the long tail was 'Richard's Pipit' but it soon became clear it was in actual fact a Great Grey Shrike, sporting 'bandit mask' and flashing white primary bases. The Meadow Pipits were all chasing it. It swooped down in front of me and dropped in to a small birch tree. I quickly got the scope on it but to my frustration it was largely hidden on the far side of the tree. A couple minutes later and I watched it drop out of the tree and fly low away from me, and that was the last I saw of it. It had vanished in a fashion that is, unfortunately, typical of shrikes.
Two Redpolls went over but otherwise I didn't see much else up there.
Earlier this morning we were up at the archery club to watch Joel play football. Whilst they were warming up Lu and I walked the dog around the adjoining Withycombe Raleigh Common. A Firecrest was a little unexpected, as were at least 3 Chiffchaffs. Additionally we saw 3 Bullfinches, heard Dartford Warbler and witnessed several large flocks of Redwing going over. They continued to fly over once the match had started and must have totalled several hundred birds by the final whistle.
I did Maer Rocks at dawn and recorded 1+ Purple Sandpiper, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Brent Goose and 1 Great Crested Grebe. Orcombe Point produced just 1 Redwing and 17+ Meadow Pipits.
A quick look off the Imperial resulted in my first 3 Goldeneye of the winter and 10 Bar-tailed Godwits.
Just before I went up to Woodbury I had a look off Mudbank for the Black Brant but I couldn't find it. There's still a load of wildfowl off there and the waders included c20+ Redshank, 2+ Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Grey Plovers, Greenshank, c100+ Turnstone and c10+ Dunlin. Good to see Rupert as always.
The shrike is in the small birch - middle right'ish.

Mallards - Mudbank

Drake Pintail - Mudbank

Micro sp - Orcombe. Keen to put a name to this one.


  1. Hi Matt, great find. I'll pop up to the commons for a look for it next few days - hope it hangs around a bit. And it's certainly not the worst shrike photo ever - I've taken some so bad I'm not even sure the bird's in the picture. Cheers, Tim

  2. Thanks Tim. Nick and I couldn't find it first thing yesterday morning but hopefully it's lurking somewhere. Matt

  3. Matt,
    I sent details of all the disturbance in the Duckpond and at Mudbank to James Chubb, the Countryside Manager at EDDC ( He is co-ordinating the new wardens and will pass on the message. Don't hesitate to bombard him with other disturbance incidents for the estuary.