Wednesday 24 October 2012

The joy of flex

One of the small comforts of my job is a flexi-time system which makes the odd twitch possible without eating into precious family holidays. So a Daurian Shrike on Portland was all the justification I needed to book a couple of hours off this afternoon. The bird had been on the Bill Road yesterday, but as I walked down from Southwell it was ominously quiet, save for a bloody-billed Kestrel. Hopefully not Shrike-blood, I thought...
Kestrel on the Bill Road
Turning off the road past Culverwell, I eventually caught up with the Shrike at the far end of a large paddock. A photographer who was packing to go advised me to keep an eye on a nearby bush to which the bird had returned on several occasions.

Daurian Shrike
Sure enough, within ten minutes it did just that to give superb views of a very attractive rarity. October has been pretty quiet for me so far, but with a week on the Isles of Scilly coming up (note: this is one of those 'precious family holidays' of which I spoke earlier), a Dorset tick of such quality was a good way to whet the appetite.

The Shrike heads off to hunt...
After an hour or so the Shrike appeared to go to roost in a bush right next to the path. I had to pass this on the way back to the car so my last view of it was a badly obscured one as it moved around low in the bush, but only about 6 feet away. Talk about close to greatness.

Lower hanging fruit for my County list was also available this evening in the form of a Ring Ouzel, which I have somehow managed to avoid in Dorset despite almost five years of residency. This is obviously not a bird you are going to twitch, and I was sure I would just stumble across one one day, but it just hadn't happened until today. 'Too much twitching' chided Hamish Murray - Dorset birding's Gandalf to my Peregrine Took - when I confessed this to him recently. He's got a point, but I'd like to think that bad luck, habitual over-sleeping and sheer incompetence have also played their part.

Short-eared Owl: one of eight reported on Portland today
Anyway, as if to prove what a bogey bird this had become, I didn't even see my first Dorset Ring Ouzel - as the picture below shows, one was captured just in the frame when I took my initial very distant record shot of the Shrike. The one I actually saw came from a different angle a few minutes later. Doh!

First view of the Shrike on the green post. Unlike me, you can no doubt spot the Ouzel...

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