Sunday, 5 March 2017

John Shrikes Gold? As You Shrike It?

My 200 Bird year challenge

Like a fair few others in the group I’ve signed up for the 200 bird challenge. Although I’ve kept a year list for the past few years I’ve found I’ve enjoyed having a more focused target than the more open-ended ‘pot as many birds as you can’ approach. Apart from raw numbers, another part of the quest was to try to discover some new locations rather than focusing on the old favourites (so no visit to cold, blustery Marshside just yet).

Having signed up to the our What’s App group I noticed that the Frodsham Little Stints seemed to be hanging around and, as it would be a new site  for me, with birds that wouldn’t be scared of a drop of rain should the weather be inclement, I decided to give it a go.

Armed with my trusty ‘Where to Watch Birds: North West England’ book (a Christmas present from a few years back) I set out from the station and, consulting the map for the Frodsham walk in said tome, promptly took a wrong turning at the end of Marsh Lane. Not the end of the world, just a slightly longer walk to Number 6 tank, favoured hangout of the Little Stints.
Frodsham marsh map
 After crossing the bridge over the M56 I tried to work out my location from the map. I gave up Geography before GCSE, colouring-in never being my forte, and was trying to get my bearings (was that slightly flooded field on my right really number 6 tank? Can’t see what all the fuss is about personally. Maybe it’s just because the tide’s out) when, I noticed a plump-looking bird on top one of the trees at the end of said field.

One of the birding sayings I’ve come to value is ‘What else could it have been?’ It certainly wasn’t a magpie and I knew it had to be a Grey Shrike but… which one? Was I to be denied a lifer, and my best self-found bird to date because I was iffy on the distinction between Great and Lesser Butcher Birds of the Grey variety?
So, on to What’s App I went, raising my eyes every few seconds to keep my eyes on the bird, which seemed perfectly happy atop its thorny perch. Within minutes I had half a dozen replies, then Chris Tynan called to say he was on his way, having already put the sighting up on Birdguides, plus other local birding websites. Eep!
As you can imagine, this was not the best time to look up and see that the bird had flown. But it clearly liked these particular trees so it’d come back… wouldn’t it?
Seeing as it’d take Chris a while to get to Frodsham I continued on the walk around number six tank, thinking I’d meet him at Marsh Lane. Though it was wet and muddy it wasn’t actually raining and there was other birdlife about – three Stonechats were nice to see after that particularly harsh winter a few years back, as were a pair of calling Raven, plus a Kestrel and Buzzard. I met Chris scoping the waders (Stints keeping their heads down) and we started to make our way back to Marsh Lane. The first sign of the impressive speed of the local grapevine was a car coming the other way, who followed us to the site. Though the bird was no longer on its favoured perch, Chris quickly got on to it and confirmed it.
Great Grey Shrike - Dave Craven
And thus the GGS passed from a ‘probable’ to a confirmed’ and I’ve spent most of the last two days feeling like I’m floating six inches off the floor!
So, to sum it all up, the system works – I got quick diagnostic help, Chris got the info out quickly so that a fair few of our group got to see it (as well as other local birders), the local warden said that there’d been one a couple of years back but, before then, there’d hadn’t been one for thirty years (after which I was floating nine inches off the floor) so it’ll now go on the his blog and do its bit to raise the profile of Frodsham Marsh as a site and I suspect it may well merit a mention in the rarities section of a future edition of BirdWatching magazine.
Which, considering I went the wrong way at the wrong time (it was low tide so, rarity apart, it was generally pretty quiet) is quite a result.

John Doragh 

Whatsapp group :
Contact Chris Tynan to join group 07831 352870

Short video Shrike hunting/hovering:
GG Shrike - Carole Killikenny


laura bimson said...

Nice work John, pleased for you. Terrific bird that caused a mini twitch.
Bird 97 in your challenge (never to be forgotten) was it, you'll get there with this amount of effort :-)

Ann Tomo said...

Wonderful find John, I know how thrilled I was finding my own Waxwings and sharing the info with the group.


Anna said...

Well done John! I've still never seen a shrike after an unsuccessful attempt to see one with the group at Glazebury last November, but I don't mind in a way as it's nice for it still to have that air of anticipation and mystique!