Saturday 19 May 2012

Woodchat Shrike Dip - but with an unexpected bonus - 17th May 2012

Thursday 17th May and the weather had changed again - it was dull and grey with drizzle/showery periods but we headed off to The Warren car-park at Noss Mayo to have a look for the woodchat shrike that had been showing very well here since the weekend. Walking down the footpath from the car park I wished I had brought a hat and some gloves as it was very cold in a strong Easterly wind. Reaching the coast path overlooking the valley where the shrike had been showing it became very obvious that I would not see it as the wind was blowing right up the valley and it was very cold and insect free except for a lone bumble bee nectaring on the gorse flowers! I imagine it must have moved on if it had any sense. I spent some time searching the area and found a singing male stonechat and a singing male cirl bunting while gannets battled against the wind and waves offshore.

Heading off along the coast path to Noss Mayo and lunch in The Ship Inn I saw another singing cirl bunting, another male stonechat and 3 very bright looking male yellowhammers, one of which was singing.

After lunch we headed off up the steep valley path back to The Warren car-park where I spent a bit more time looking unsuccessfully for the shrike again. A pair of birdwatchers were leaving as I arrived at the top of the valley and they had drawn a blank too. I had resigned myself to not seeing the bird and was just admiring the view when the unexpected bonus of the day put in an appearance. A pigeon flew low and fast across the clifftop heading East, I thought it was a woodpigeon but on looking through my binoculars I realised it was a lovely turtle dove, a bird I have not seen in the UK for well over 15 years and only my second Devon sighting! It was only a brief view but I was more pleased to see it than I would have been to see the shrike! Unfortunately the turtle dove is the most likeliest bird to become extinct in the UK by 2020, due to hunting and habitat loss, a sad state of affairs, with others saying it will become extinct globally and will be the European equivalent of the now extinct North American passenger pigeon.

Before leaving to head back to Plymouth I got chatting with a guy who had the largest lens I have ever seen on a camera, how he managed to hold it to take pictures I will never know. He had seen the shrike every day since it was first seen but hadn't seen it that day and on checking the internet sightings that evening it had not been reported that day or since. Never mind - I saw a woodchat shrike at Wembury in 2008 and a ridiculously tame bird in Ford Park cemetery in Plymouth in 2009 but it would have been good to have caught up with this bird too. Should have gone to see it on Tuesday instead of going to Wembury!

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