Sunday, 30 October 2016

Shrike Three! - Great Grey Shrike, Dartmoor

October 27th and a grey, dull and claggy but mild day saw us heading up to Warren House on Dartmoor for a walk and a look for a recently reported great grey shrike. It was half term holiday hell and we were expecting the Jocasta and Peregrine brigade from London to be overrunning the Warren House Inn but it was actually fairly quiet.

We parked up outside the Inn at around 12:30 and decided to walk first before having lunch and so off we headed to Golden Dagger and the Soussons plantation. It was very quiet birdwise in the strong breeze but once inside the cover of the trees in the plantation it was quite pleasent and warm and I managed to see a green woodpecker, 2 raven, a buzzard, a pair of bullfinch, a flock of around 50 flighty and nervous fieldfares with a few redwings devouring rowan tree berries and a red admiral.

There were quite a few birders wandering around with glum faces as the shrike had been seen earlier but had flown off out of sight and after wandering about and scanning around for ourselves with no luck I had resigned myself to not seeing it as we started to head back along the path towards the Inn for some lunch.

As we walked back towards the Inn a group of birders were avidly watching something ahead of us and as we negotiated the wet and muddy footpath along the valley bottom towards them they informed us the shrike was on show just as it flew off and out of sight! However it soon reappeared on top of a bush, looking pale and ghostly in the dull light. The views were a little distant and the light wasn't great but it was very nice to see my third shrike species for the year in Devon and my 4th great grey shrike ever.
Soussons/Warren House where the shrike was eventually seen - looking stunning despite the gloomy weather

 Great Grey Shrike - zoomed and cropped and awful photo
 Great Grey Shrike and Sheep

 Great Grey Shrike

Great Grey Shrike

It was very mobile and flighty, moving from bush top to bush top and occassionally hovering over the ground when it looked most impressive as it flashed its white wing patches and white outer tail feathers against its black and grey upperparts. It also chased a butterfly unsuccessfully and despite regularly hovering and dropping down to the ground it never seemed to catch anything.

Great Grey Shrike - photo courtesy of DBWPS website

We enjoyed a nice lunch in the Inn before heading home via Derriford Hospital to visit father-in-law and sister-in-law and to take mother-in-law home, a bit of a busmans holiday for me but I was glad to have seen the shrike after what initially felt like it was going to be a bit of a dip.

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