Friday 28 October 2016

Always stay at home to see Shrikes

Plan A for this morning involved travelling to Essex to see an Isabelline Shrike. Then I found out I had no car again, so plan B was enacted - hit the patch. I was up relatively early, still not quite on the right time zone after Texas. Oh yeah, I went to Texas - very nice. Anyhow, looking outside it looked dull and decidedly murky. In other words excellent for migrants, so I got up and wandered the short distance over to Wanstead Flats. A few finches overhead, and some pretty decent Woodpigeon movement, but nothing to write home about. And anyway, no pen. I commented via Twitter that it wasn't really up to the standards of Southern Texas, drenched in Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Green Jays, Altamira Orioles and the like. Then Tony called.

Tony birds the patch once a week for a few hours on a Saturday morning, as he lives just that little bit too far away to stumble around before work. Despite the infrequent visits, he has quite a good track record. 

"Jono, where are you? I've just had a Great Grey Shrike!"

He should visit more often. 

After that was a bit of a blur. I joined him at the Ditch of Despair, likely soon to be renamed, to talk about what to do next. One brief view, then lost, but unlikely to be anything else. We split up, I circled around to the brooms, he went back to the start of the ditch in case it had gone round. Nothing. Just as I was approaching a Hawthorn, another call from TB - this time to tell me it was in a Hawthorn. Which one? Waaaaaaahhhhhhh! This one! The bird flew low and fast across the Flats. Ooof! Sheer delight, what a record. I phoned Bob again, also nearby and aware, but before I could get back on it it was off again, this time flying around us and off towards Long Wood. Another brief perch up, decent views this time including for Bob, and it was off again. Back over our heads and into Centre Copse. At this point Tony suffered a hug.

And as other [sad] local birders will tell you, that was it. Despite walking round every corner of the Flats for the next two hours none of us could relocate it. Unfortunately the Flats gets quite busy on a Saturday morning around this time, lots of football, morning strolls, and the bird may have decided this was not a place conducive to a prolonged stay. But leaving sorrow aside for the moment as it's not an emotion I am currently experiencing very much, oh my God! A Shrike on the patch! The patch has had many good birds, and a spectacular autumn, but this is the stuff of dreams. Always go see Shrikes. The fact that this morning I could not did not hold me back, is this more evidence of karma? Without a doubt missing Siberian Thrushes puts a lot of credit in the bank, but still, this is almost farcical surely? It is the third record for the patch, the last in 1977, and Tony Brown is a legend. His account, with photos, is here. I am still in disbelief, and now that all my weekend errands and chores are done, about to start drinking. There will be a toast.

Oh, and the Izzy Shrike had done a bunk.

I read this when I got home.


  1. Nice... Wanstead has been on a roll this Autumn. Texas? Don't know why you bothered...

    1. It's like Staines Moor last year, we can do no wrong. And Texas, y'all better git ready!