Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Third Times a Charm - Great Grey Shrike, Dartmoor

Sunday 7th May and it was off to Warren House for a walk via a visit to father-in-law at the nursing home. It was cloudy and cool but the sun did eventually appear and after some lunch in the Warren House Inn we headed off to Soussons and Challacombe Farm. Along the way I bumped into Plymouth birders Torr and Rachel returning to their car who had seen some good birds on their walk and they mentioned that the wintering great grey shrike was seen on Wednesday (3rd) but that they hadn't seen it on their walk today. I hadn't been expecting to see the shrike but as we headed off down to the valley I kept a good eye out for it in the usual areas but without any luck.

The walk was very pleasant though and I saw my first whinchats of the year, at least 3 singing males, along with a male stonechat, singing willow warblers, a buzzard and 2 singing tree pipits. A green woodpecker was heard yaffling and a siskin and a redpoll songflighted over and down by the stream I found a juvenile crossbill busily preening in a tree after having had a bathe before it flew off calling with a second bird that I hadn't noticed.

At Challacombe Farm I heard 2 singing redstarts and a calling nuthatch while overhead at least 3 redpolls were songflighting. Swallows and house martins were also flying around and a grey wagtail flew along the stream.

Heading back to Warren House and I heard a cuckoo calling and managed to get some distant views of it perched on top of a holly bush. It was very mobile and moved over a large area of the moor with a second bird also heard calling and also a female giving its bubbly, chuckly call. While searching across the vegetation for the mobile cuckoos I noticed a grey, black and white bird fly up to the top of a tree with white wing flashes on its upper wings very noticeable as it swooped up to land in the branches  - the great grey shrike! Finally I had found it on my third attempt and on the very late date of May 7th. It was unfortunately distant and feeding on the hillside below Birch Tor, an area that I have not seen one in before, but it was soon disturbed by some walkers and flew off out of sight without my noticing as I moved to a better position to view it. Later I saw it perched in the top of a bare tree on the skyline, swooping down before returning to the top branches, but it was even more distant and eventually flew off never to be seen again but I was very pleased to have finally seen it.

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