Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lucky Shrike - Filey, 5th April

“I am a messenger from the birding gods, and the message is: 'you have chosen wisely'” 

This lip-smackin', starting-pistol crackin' Great Grey Shrike made a pleasant morning's inaugural patch-working unforgettable, and provided a dream beginning for birding adventures in the new manor.

Rolling out of bed (our only piece of furniture thus far outside of the kitchen) at dawn this morning, I'd been looking forward to an early session after checking the forecast – cold, sunny and clear with relatively light winds, after 48 hours of bone-shaking north-easterlies and wintry showers.

Quite a contrast to the balmy beach weather of last week, and hardly full of promise, but at least hinting strongly at the possibility of migrant action. And so I headed north out of the flat with the sun rising over the bay, via Church Ravine, Arndale and onto Carr Naze, the plateau which crowns the Brigg.

Trying and failing for a maybe a Wheatear or a Black Redstart, I bumped into another local birder, shot the breeze for a while, exchanged numbers and then headed along the north cliff path. Breathtaking vistas of the coastline and its breeding seabirds were ample distraction, before heading south from the cliff edge towards The Old Tip.

"hmmm, tasty Reed Bunting" 

Having spent much of this first week here in Filey making our new place habitable, I've had a couple of recon wanders close to home, but this morning was the first chance to cover a more comprehensive loop route incorporating the Old Tip, a reclaimed area of rough grassland, low scrub and bordering hedgerows.

With my mind wandering to a conversation I'd had the day before (with Richard at Flamborough) about how I'd be more than happy nailing just a couple of scarcities in this first year here, I looked up to the vision of pristine butcherbird staring back at me from a budding hawthorn in the morning sunshine.


count the passerine mobsters 

After a few minutes of good views (albeit into the light), the shrike then gracefully plucked a large insect out of the sky and landed much closer, in perfect light, in the top of the hedge I was stood by. Over the next five minutes the bird gave me the best field views of Great Grey Shrike I've ever had – on my first proper circuit of the new patch. Priceless.


As yet entirely unconnected to the local grapevine, taking Colin's number on the Naze earlier turned out to be extremely timely, and within a few minutes of making the call various local birders had arrived and were enjoying the shrike – excluding a few singing chiffys (probably not fresh in), the only genuine migrant I'd seen all morning.