Monday 17 November 2014

Tricky juveniles

After successfully twitching a Dusky Warbler on Portland on Saturday, I pushed my luck both at home and in birding terms by seeking permission to chase an Isabelline Shrike around Hengistbury Head at the other end of the county on Sunday.
Isabelline Shrike (1st winter), Hengistbury Head
Permission was granted, but with a condition attached: I had to take my 7 year old son, who was otherwise in danger of spending the whole weekend indoors. While not exactly a patient twitcher, he's pretty good company so this was no hardship, though getting him out of the house proved difficult: my suggestion that a nice walk with me might be fun was met with tears rather than the hoped for expression of joy.
No trouble finding the Shrike with my assistant's help...
When I pointed out that crying at the idea of spending time with your Dad might be considered offensive, not to mention frowned upon by no less an authority than Father Christmas, he warmed to the idea and we headed off having made our peace.
...he was so well behaved I even let him have a go with my precious camera. Here the Solent Meads Golf Centre gets the artistic treatment

I tried to make it fun, giving him his own bins - a battered but serviceable pair of Opticron 10 x 42s - and taking some old short-wave radios which turned up in a clear-out recently, so we could stay in touch, Scilly style, on our twitch. This seemed to do the trick as he waited patiently for the best part of an hour before the Shrike eventually perched up on top of a bush. It was good timing as we were on a bit of a deadline, needing to get back to Wareham to accompany the other son to a football match (a pulsating 5-2 home win against Broadstone, since you ask).
1st winter Isabelline Shrike
It was a wet, gloomy day, so photography was a real challenge. The Shrike, a first winter bird, was slightly too far away for my autofocus to lock on easily in the low light, but with perseverance and luck, as it flew into a nearby bush, I was able to get some acceptable shots and excellent telescope views for the both of us. My own juvenile was impressed, especially when I pointed out that his brother has yet to see Isabelline Shrike. Sibling rivalry comes in handy sometimes.
1st winter Isabelline Shrike

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