I was inconveniently in Switzerland when the local WhatsApp group went into overdrive. Nick had found a Red-backed Shrike near the Alex. I was near the Matterhorn. Sub-optimal. That said, the canton of Valais treated me to some amazing birds during my four days there. I was hiking with friends, all non-birders (though I did my best), and naturally I had my binoculars with me. What the Pennine Alps lack in quantity they make up for in quality. On day one, at about 2400m, my buddies were treated to what happens when I see a much-wanted new bird, in this an adult Lammergeir that came cruising round the mountain. They had not witnessed this before, but I like to think that they shared the joy I was feeling. I went on to see seven birds over the course of the trip. Almost as amazing as this was that I had to give up counting Nutcrackers - there were simply too many. Alpine Accentors, Ravens, Wheatears and Black Redstarts were my daily fodder, and on one day on the ridge towards the Weisshorn a pair of Golden Eagles glided over.
|The black dot to the right of the 'Horn is a Lammergeir. You will have to trust me on this.|
But back to the Shrike. Long predicted. Long awaited. Autumn arrived in style. The day it was found I was actually due to come home, but not until the evening. And of course, during the course of the day nearly every single local birder dropped whatever it was they were doing and made their way to the Flats to drink it in. Does nobody work anymore?! Happily the weather was a bit inclement overnight, and the next morning when the rain had stopped I started my search - and of course there it was. Phew! It is actually still present a week later as I type this and has been widely appreciated. I've not managed to get my arse in gear to photograph it but lots of lovely photos are appearing online - a nice chevron-adorned juvenile. It marks my 151st bird for the patch, my second Shrike species, and I am over the moon.
The Shrike was the main course, but there have been plenty of appetisers to go with it. I've also seen half a dozen Whinchat, four Spotted Flycatchers, two Pied Flycatchers and a Redstart amongst various other birds. Of the latter three species, one two minute spell in the Enclosure saw all three in the same tree. When Wanstead Flats is in the mood, it is really in the the mood. I am starting to get out, excited at what might be here.
And then of course there was the Blue Nuthatch. What. A. Bird. Sadly not in Wanstead. I was in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia with Mrs L on a short break, and it was Mrs L who spotted it, identified it as Nuthatch (but not as we know it Jim), and got me on to it. Sadly I was too stunned to get a proper photo, but I can assure you it was epic. Electric blue, unreal. There were a ton of other birds too, and whilst this was not a birding trip there is a lot to be said for just spending time walking through forests. I'll do a short trip report in due course just to alert people that romantic breaks in south-east Asia need not be entirely devoid of avian interest.
All I am trying to say really is that whilst I have not been birding there have still been birds. I cannot avoid them, wherever I go I am alert to the possibilities, and do my best to try and see something. Not everything, just incidental, but deeply satisfying nonetheless.