Tuesday 1 November 2011

One Steppe beyond...

...and a few more besides. The Shropshire Steppe Grey Shrike - or 'Shroik' as the twitchers from our great second city pronounced it - never came closer than a couple of hundred yards today, allowing only a distant digiscoped effort. The ever friendly digiscoping guru Paul Hackett arrived towards the end of my visit, and didn't even bother to get his camera out, so far away was the bird and so poor the light by then. Still, it was a tick for me, having somehow failed to go and see the ridiculously tame bird in Lincs a few years ago before it became suspected Sparrowhawk food. I shared Paul's surprise at how dark the mask looked in the field, but even in this Wildlife Photographer of the Year (Fuzzy Images of Distant Birds Section) award winning shot, paler lores and bill, and a large white primary patch can just about me be made out. Pictures of this bird in flight by local photographer Jim Almond show these and other features which look good for Steppe Grey Shrike much better, though it sounds like even Jim's monster lens struggled with the distance and lack of light.

I had booked the Monday and Tuesday off work this week to catch up with the inevitable mega which normally turns up on the mainland when I'm on Scilly. Steppe Grey Shrike in land-locked Shropshire wasn't quite how I dreamt it, but I was determined to squeeze a new bird out of what was left of October, and this was the only one available, so I have to be grateful for that. The site was close to Harper Adams College, which I remember attending for a conference many years ago. Quote of the day from that was a friend who announced after a few jars 'I'm happy for the world to know I'm gay but try to keep quiet about being a birder...'

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