Sunday, 17 March 2013

No luck on St. Patrick's Day

I hadn't been birding for almost four weeks, an unprecedented hiatus for me but there was other 'stuff' to do on the weekends and the weather had been pretty grim.
But the break had done me good and I was very eager to get out today one way or another. I had first thought of going to Strumpshaw Fen but having seen a report of the Great Grey Shrike at Wrentham this morning on Birdguides I decided to go 'off piste', leave Norfolk altogether and venture into Suffolk.
I set off just after noon, I had the right general area (Guildhall Lane) but not the precise location. Fortunately there were other birders present otherwise I may have missed it. As it happened they were just leaving as I arrived having failed to connect with the bird. In fact the last time it was seen had been several hours earlier as it flew high towards the fields on the opposite side of the road and away out of sight.
Never mind, at least I was in the right area, just a matter of time. Great Grey Shrike is a good bird, I've only seen one before and that was in Latvia. I'd never seen one in the UK before and certainly not in Ireland where they're much rarer.
A couple more birders arrived in due course, this was their second time there today and they had dipped first time around. We chatted for a while before they decided to move on. After that it was just me. I gave it four hours but no shrike.
But it wasn't all birdless, far from it in fact. At one stage the sun broke through and a stunning Barn Owl drifted past on the meadow in front of me. I'm seeing a lot more Barn Owls in the UK than I ever saw in Ireland. When the BTO atlas comes out later this year it'll be interesting to compare their status.
I made a brief movie clip of the bird as it hunted although it was naturally reluctant to come too close.

Youtube clip of Barn Owl hunting

Sorry for the shaky footage by the way.

At the same a Green Woodpecker put in a brief appearance along the edge of the left hand side hedgerow.
I guess its always like this, if you give a place enough time you'll see birds. While the shrike was nowhere to be seen, I had nice views of Kestrel, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit and a distant male Marsh Harrier.
I decided to stroll around a bit and in the next field along the edge of a small plantation I caught up again with the Barn Owl. I was busy taking shots of it when a second bird drifted past within twenty feet, but I was too slow with my lens, it caught sight of me and turned giving me a view of its arse only - not a great shot.
The first Owl obviously had a little scheme going and was cleverly perched on a post right along the edge of a plantation watching for voles and mice. I tried creeping towards it but you don't really creep up on Barn Owls without them noticing you very quickly.

Rumbled - spotted by the Barn Owl as I crept towards it.
I elected to see if I could approach from the lane on the opposite side of the plantation and get a few shots from within my car. I got a little closer this time but was also spotted before too long.

Barn Owl, Wrentham, Suffolk - 17th March 2013
I took one more short movie clip before leaving the bird to his hunting.

Barn Owl perched movie clip

I returned to the shrike site for one last look, still no sign but I did flush a Woodcock and the male Marshie came a little closer.

Male Marsh Harrier, Wrentham, Suffolk - 17th March 2013

So, all in all, not a bad day out. Alas no shrike but plenty else to see on what was my first St. Patrick's day outside of Ireland.

Shona La Feile Padraig!


  1. Nice blog entry, G! Barn owl so much reminds me of a certain pink mouse!

  2. Yes very nice post Graham, If you had either Green woodpecker or the very good views of the Barn Owl back here at home well the Barn Owl wouldn`t cause too much of a fuss but Green Woodpecker! Stampede time. Lovely shots as well buddy.