I did three mornings in a row on the new patch last weekend. On Friday I had the day off work to wait for a BT engineer and some furniture (ah the joys of house moves…) but they weren’t scheduled to be here until after 12, so I got a morning to have a wander.
Nothing particularly unusual jumped out at me in Wheata Wood or Wharncliffe Wood, bar the now regular sightings of the likes of treecreeper, nuthatch, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker and goldfinch. A walk on the Chase turned up three fieldfare and a couple of goldcrest bimbling about in the bracken, and a walk back through Greno Wood revealed a small flock of redpoll and a nice green woodpecker making its way up a silver birch.
Saturday was, ahem, slightly more interesting. Wheata had more of the same, with the 30+ chaffinch flock making an appearance, with a few yellowhammer mixed in. I got on to the Chase, as a bit of an afterthough because I almost missed it out, and immediately got on to two meadow pipits, that were uncharacteristically perched in a tree. Idly looking at these, out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of what gave the jizz almost of a small, pale bird of prey landing in a birch. I got onto it and my mind wibbled as I saw the strikingly pale grey body, black flicking tail, black wings and black mask of a GREAT GREY SHRIKE!!! Hands literally shaking I fumbled for the camera, and failed miserably to get a photo before it disappeared (almost in a puff of smoke) as shrikes are wont to do…
Sadly a search by me and a handful of other birders (sorry Andy and Dave!) failed to refind it – I hate single observer birds like this, as I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking I was being a stringy bastard here, seeing as it’s so soon into my new patch career. There’s even a tiny part of me that wonders if it was possible for me to turn any common species into an obvious shrike via the power of “wishful-thinkingovision” but nothing quite seems to fit (a midget, partially albino jay maybe?!)!
Although on paper it’s good habitat for a wintering GGS (open, small bushes, clumps of birches, goldcrests lurking in the bracken for the a quick snack…) I think the disturbance level there possibly rules out a long-stayer. And was it the homeyeri bird from Blacka Moor? I must admit my view was too brief to get it to subspecific level – lesson for us all here, don’t be so keen to reach for a crap record shot to the degree you don’t give the bird the best scrutiny it deserves.
While fruitlessly searching for the shrike, Andy at least got seven waxwings over, so some consolation hopefully!
Sunday was less dramatic, the highlight being a gorgeous fox nonchalantly trotting along the path in Wheata Wood in front of me. The Wheata finch/bunting flock also contained a reed bunting and had been joined by 10+ redpoll (I’m determined to find a brambling in there in the coming weeks…), and the Chase had a redpoll count of 17 and a goldcrest count of 6. But that was about it… no shrike! As I said the disturbance on the Chase is often fairly high due to passing joggers and dogwalkers, but on Sunday this was even worse due to shotguns banging away, presumably shooting game somewhere nearby, and the Chase swarming with landrovers-full of foxhounds. If I was a shrike I’d have pegged it too!
Will I carry on this rather obsessive patch-watching of the past couple of weekends, or will I go somewhere else this week… We’ll see!