Saturday, 21 September 2013

Shriking in Suffolk

I suppose if I was still living in Cork I'd been off to Dursey to see the first Irish record and second WP record of Wilson's Warbler. Another stunning find on the Beara Peninsula. Anyway, I'm here in Norfolk, so with a day free to go birding I decided to head out of the county and try for the Leiston, Suffolk, Lesser Grey Shrike.
Now, I've had mixed luck with Shrikes. Of all the species, I would say I have dipped on more Shrikes than anything. This year alone I dipped on Great Grey Shrike at Wrentham, Woodchat Shrike at Horsey Gap and Red-backed Shrike at Walsey Hills. While news on the LGS was good, with my track record there would be no guarantee I'd connect.
I arrived in Leiston without a hitch, but finding the site was trickier. Eventually I got there, and knew I was in the right place when I saw the cars parked up on the ditch and people walking towards me with scopes across their shoulders and bins 'round their necks.
The bird was showing well though, moving from fence posts to the tops of hawthorn bushes and occassionally dropping to the deck to pick up a beetle or some other misfortunate bug. However, it was distant. At best it came within twenty meters, which given the number of birders present, wasn't all that bad. Still, great to see one in the UK. I've only seen them previosuly in Namibia where they are the most plentiful species of Shrike.

Lesser Grey Shrike, Leiston, Suffolk - 21st September 2013
I didn't expect to improve on the shots above, so I took some tips from another birder and drove towards Sizewell beach to see if I could get shots of a rather tame Arctic Skua that had been present there for the last week.
I walked up the shingle in the shadow of the enormous Sizewell Nuclear Power Plant. I could almost see Mr. Burns up there at his desk gazing down on us lowly birders as we passed below!

Sizewell Nuclear Power Plant - sector G7
The skua was easy to locate, it was out harassing the gulls (including several Little Gulls). Within a few minutes it landed on the beach and began to preen before being flushed by a dog, whereupon it flew back out to sea, landed and began more preening and washing.
I sat and waited and before long it took off and landed about one hundred meters down the beach. I circled around and managed to get reasonably close as it sat preening on the beach. While I was photographing it I noticed it had metal ring on its right leg, I don't think I have any details on this though. The other thing I noticed is that the bird looked quite oiled. Sadly, it looks as though its tail and flight feathers had become matted with oil and this of course would explain why it was preening so much.

Arctic Skua, Sizewell Beach, Suffolk - 21st September 2013
Sad to see a nice bird (or any animal for that matter) suffering, it was able to fly and move about, but I suppose its survival depends on how much oil it has ingested. I wish it well.
For the last hour I walked up and down the path alongside the power plant looking for Black Redstarts, which breed there. Eventually I found two female types and managed some shots of one of them as it chased flies around the steel and the concrete.

Black Redstart - Sizewell Nuclear Power Plant, Suffolk - 21st September 2013
After that it was hometime.

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