Friday 29 March 2013

Great Grey Shrike - Egmere

Plan A was to head back to Strumpshaw Fen this afternoon and try for some better Brambling shots but a report of a Great Grey Shrike at Egmere was tempting. I didn't feel like driving very far but at the last minute I relented. Having dipped at Wrentham, Suffolk several weeks ago I knew seeing one this time wouldn't be guaranteed. But its too good a bird to ignore so off I went.
I had a bit of trouble finding the exact spot and ended up driving into Wells-next-the-Sea first. Knowing I had gone wrong I turned back along the Fakenham road and eventually came upon four cars pulled up along a ditch about one mile past the old church in Egmere. About five birders were present and already peering through scopes so things were looking good. I wound the car window down and asked the nearest birder if this was the right place for the Shrike, 'Yes', they replied. And the bird was showing well perched atop a Hawthorn bush about three hundred yards further up a private road. I enjoyed good views of it as it scanned the hedgerow for a hapless Wren or Goldcrest. My only previous encounter with this species was in Latvia two years ago so this was a British tick for me. I gave it two hours but the bird never came much closer than one hundred yards. I got some reasonable record shots but when I got home it seemed like many of the files on my memory card were corrupted and I couldn't process those images. In fact I only had one shot that I could view and edit. Its pretty crappy really but better than nothing. Still an absolute beauty of a bird.

Great Grey Shrike - Egmere, Norfolk - 29th March 2013

I shared views with several other birders throughout my time with the shrike. All good folk, none more so than Paul, who is the first wheelchair birder I have met. He told me being divorced and disabled is great because of all the time you have to go birding. Paul, I salute you sir...........and wish we could all have an attitude as good as yours!
A Barn Owl flew over our heads checking us out at one stage and I also caught a brief glimpse of a Red Kite before it disappeared behind the horizon. A Buzzard was calling from a sycamore tree in a nearby field and female type Marsh Harrier put in a brief cameo.
With the bird keeping its distance and not wanting to venture down the private road for closer views I decided to head home. It was bitterly cold too. Just before I turned onto the Fakenham road I stopped to check-out some Red-legged Partridge in a stubble field when two Grey Partridge flew out from the ditch into the same field. I thought about it for a second or two before realising that Grey Partridge is a lifer. That makes me sound like a total novice but up until recently there was only one site in Ireland where they could be seen (Boora Bog in Co. Offaly) and I had never been there. I had never seen Grey Partridge anywhere else so these two were my first (I haven't seen too many Red-legged Partridge for that matter either).

Grey Partridge, near Egmere, Norfolk - 29th March 2013
Time was pushing on so I turned for home. Four or five miles later a small brownish raptor flew out of a wood and across the road in front of me. For a second or two it had me puzzled, it didn't look familiar...........because it wasn't! Tawny Owl........another lifer!

I think the word you're looking for is 'dude' ;-)

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