Posts Tagged ‘Great Grey Shrike’

A Red breasted Goose had turned up in Norfolk with a large quantity of Pink footed Geese in December. It didn’t stay long in Norfolk and was relocated in North Lancashire in the Cockerham area. Myself and Steve B decided to have a go at seeing it and left Rochdale at 7am on a cool morning. We called at Fishmoor Reservoir, Blackburn to try to catch up with a couple of white winged gulls that had been seen there recently, but as it was still fairly dark we headed up to the Cockerham area. Lots of geese flying around was a truly great spectacle as the sun began rise, we checked a few of the large flocks out but could not see anything except Pink footed Geese. We headed down into the Thurham area and found a flock of around 300 Whooper Swans with 4 Bewick Swans also seen. A field also contained about 6 dodgy looking Canada Geese, after watching them we realised that they were not moving, then a man appeared and picked them up, they were decoys! A message said, “Red breasted Goose just flown over Sand Villa near Cockerham”. Off we went to try to connect, but on arrival, true to form, the bird had flown out onto the salt marsh! Now for some real birding as we spent a couple of hours sifting through the main flocks and finding: – 11 White fronted Geese (Russian) 2 Bean Geese (Tundra & Taiga) Barnacle Goose, lots of Curlew, 2 Buzzards. Great fun watching the geese push each other around whilst most of them just wanted to feed. We met up with Sarfraz & Paul, fellow Rossendale birders, who both needed Bean Goose. They managed to be put onto the Bean Geese by Rob Creek (GM Birder) well done Rob.

Up to 50 birders were scattered around the area waiting for the Red breasted Goose to reappear, so we decided to have a look at the Lane Ends, Fluke Hall, Eagland Hill & Bradshaw feeding areas. We soon found lots of Tree Sparrows, Lapwing, Curlew and Redshank. As we arrived at the eastern end of Eagland Hill we located a flock of Chaffinch and a few Yellowhammers, Corn Bunting and then Steve B said, “There is a Great Grey Shrike in that bush” and sure enough, there was! Grab the cameras and take some pictures, some other birders arrived and also saw the shrike. Well done to Steve for finding the bird, we picked up Red legged Partridge as we headed back towards Cockerham. We gave the flocks another good grilling, then at 3pm we decided to leave the area and return to Fishmoor Reservoir to try for the gulls once more. As we were reaching Fishmoor the Red breasted Goose reappeared at the same place we had been watching at around 4pm, isn’t that typical.

At Fishmoor it was very cold but about 6 hardy souls were busy looking through the big flocks of gulls as we arrived, one said, “The Kumliens gull has just taken off” and we just could not get on it as it headed for the Walker Steel roof and out of sight. After about 10 minutes, I began to watch a gull bathing in a peculiar fashion and it had no black on its wings, it was an adult Iceland Gull, I suddenly had lots of people asking for directions and wanting to use my scope. I have not seen many adult Iceland Gulls before and really enjoyed watching it. Another 5 minutes went by and I saw a large white bird land on the reservoir and again began to wash in a peculiar fashion, dipping its head in the water and rolling its wings in the water as if to dive, like a Guillemot does when it dives(hope that helps) It was a juvenile Glaucous Gull. Again I had found a good bird and gave directions to people who wanted to see it, fame at last! Steve B was by now frozen and really wanted to go home so that he could go out and drink some freezing cold lager. I bade farewell to the hardy souls at Fishmoor, who said that I must return soon! Got home by 6-15pm after a really enjoyable days birding in Lancashire.

Dave O.


20161009_14275820161009_142809The type of wind and weather fronts almost guaranteed a good weekend for migrant birds on the east coast. So, with 2 of the A team joining with 2 of the lads from York, who had been to Spurn the day before, we would almost certainly have a good day`s birding!
I picked up Bob K in Milnrow, in the dark, then met Mark K and Nigel S over in North Cave. The weather looked quite nice as we decided that our first stop would be in Easington, upon arrival lots of birders had assembled and were searching the trees around the church. Nice to see Sarfraz and Craggy from the Rossendale area, welcome to twitching boys! Masses of Goldcrest and Chiff-chaff were soon seen and it was apparent that a large fall of birds had taken place. Behind the White Horse pub a Pallas`s Warbler gave a good, but to brief an appearance, what a cracking little bird, Bob K really likes Pallas`s Warbler`s. We moved onto the old cemetery at Easington, where a Red Breasted Flycatcher showed really well, which was more than could be said for a Firecrest that was hard to pin down in amongst the hordes of Goldcrest in the area, but we did see it.
We headed for Church field and the Crown & Anchor area to see if the Rustic Bunting was still around, alas it was not. The path around the field had to be walked very carefully to avoid standing on the Goldcrest`s that appeared to be everywhere, again good numbers of Chiff-chaff and along with a few Redwing, Tree Sparrow made it a nice experience. Mark K told us the news that a “possible” Pallas`s Grasshopper Warbler had been seen near the potato field almost at the point. Being mugs to add another dip on that species myself and Bob K made the walk. The York boys, very wisely, birded the canal area. It was a long 1 hour walk down to the area with a few Stonechat for company. Then talk of setting up nets to catch the bird etc seemed pointless in the rough terrain. The walk back was made all the better as a few Brambling and a few thrushes were seen, along with the Rossendale boys going in the opposite direction.
Back at the car we met Martin Q who was enjoying the hectic birding at Spurn, he told us where to watch the Great Grey Shrike from, which was off Green Lane near Sammy`s Point. Myself and Bob K had never been in this area before but we soon found the shrike and enjoyed fairly close views of it as it chased the local birds around. One last try for the Pallas`s Warbler again or the Northern Bullfinch in Easington village, no joy, then news of the Olive Backed Pipit showing really well near the gas terminal. Off we went again and were soon watching this cracking little bird down to 5 metres distance. The boys took lots of photograph`s of it as it showed well all the time we were there. Sarfraz and Craggy also got to see the bird as it was a new bird for both of them, well done to both of you! Time to go home now after a really cracking day and another Good Day at Spurn!
Dave O.

Just myself and Steve K out for another east coast trip (think that`s 6 trip`s to Spurn this year?) Steve K drove and we departed a dark and gloomy Rochdale at 6am. We reached Flamborough just before 8am after seeing very little traffic. We started with a sea watch after descending the ever narrowing path down to the head (glad it wasn’t slippy) A few of the regulars were already there, Brett etc. Within 15minutes a Balearic Shearwater was seen and what followed was an almost constant passage of Great Skua or Bonxie`s to give them their Scottish name. They seemed to be in family parties of 4 or 5 at a time nearly all heading south. I have never seen so many Great Skua`s at a 2 hour sea watch before, quite fascinating! 4 Sooty Shearwater in single`s all headed north, around 3 Arctic Skua`s seemed to be chasing anything smaller than themselves around. 9 Red Throated Diver`s, 300+ Gannet`s, lots of auks (no Little yet Steve K)Fulmar and a few Common Scoter made up an excellent sea watch. With our legs regaining some circulation we headed along the coast heading south and soon found a male Velvet Scoter close inshore. Lots of Goldcrest`s landed at our feet having made it across the sea and they all began feeding in the low vegetation, these little bird`s really have to be admired. A Great Grey Shrike was pointed out to us by a Greater Manchester birder, thanks Mark. News of a Siberian Stonechat in a set aside field close by was checked out and the bird was soon located and gave very good views. Looked like a real fall of birds was in progress as we saw lots of Willow Warbler`s and more Goldcrest`s in the bushes leading towards Old Fall Plantation. Then talk about being in the right place at the right time, the Dusky Warbler had been re-found in the same area. The bird could be located by its call, but as all Dusky Warbler`s like to stay well hidden did not show really well until it sat in a bush for about 5 seconds. We followed the bird along the hedge for about an hour and the crowd had grown to about 20 birders as we left. As we made our way back to the lighthouse a Short-Eared Owl put in a cameo performance for us as it hunted for its breakfast. Well what a cracking morning`s birding that was! Refreshments at the car and then a decision to head for Spurn to try to catch up with Pallas`s Warbler and American Golden Plover (which would be a lifer for Steve K) It`s not a long way, but it can be a difficult journey, so, when we got behind a man towing a boat, a horsebox and two caravan draggers the pace really flagged. Upon arrival at Spurn, well the Crown & Anchor pub in Kilnsea really, a small group were admiring a bird high up in the tree`s. We dashed along and were soon admiring a cracking little Pallas`s Warbler, we watched the bird on and off for 35 minutes. Could it get better? We enquired about the American Golden Plover just down the road towards Easington and were told that it did fly away but may well return to the same field to feed. Within 5 minutes of leaving we were watching the plover as it happily fed on its own giving reasonable views. A lifer for Steve K and a great way to end what turned out to be a really good day`s birding. The lads from York were there also and we had a good laugh with them. We left Spurn area around 5pm and managed to watch a Tawny Owl fly across the M62 in fading light. We got home by 7pm after a long and enjoyable day!
Dave O.

Another one of our, “looked forward to” trips, was last Sunday. With Bob K at the wheel nearly a full A Team left Rochdale on a cold spring like morning at 6am heading for World`s End in North Wales. Lots of frost around greeted us in the elevated area and even at the early hour quite a few birders had assembled to witness something very special. It was a Black Grouse lek! Firstly around 5 male birds showing their absolute finery and making lots of bubbling sounds as they went toe to toe with the nearest other male. Then we moved to the main lek in which we estimated around 25 males all having some input to this great spectacle in the bird world! They were later joined by a few females who sat around the edges enjoying the show. You can never tire of watching this unusual activity. Quite a few Raven were flying around and “gronking” sounds were all around at one time. In a small larch copse we saw Crossbill, Siskin & Goldcrest and as the grouse lek ended we had a search for a Great Grey Shrike that was a regular winter visitor to these parts. We stopped along the small road as a few other birders were watching something, it was a very distant Great Grey Shrike. We moved on and found another shrike ourselves about 1/2 mile away, the bird quickly made its exit and was not seen again. We moved into the Conway valley to search for the Hawfinch at Llan Bedr y Cenin, we were not lucky on this occasion but were treated to great views of a few Red Kites that have moved into this beautiful area. With the tide being in, a trip to Morfa Madryn (The Spinnies) was next, but frankly it was a little bit of a let down as nothing new was seen, apart from one of the bringer’s of the spring a singing Chiff Chaff which was very nice. News of Surf & Velvet Scoters near Old Colwyn had us dashing up the coast to try to find them. None of us really knew were we where heading for but we must have found the right spot as there were some other birders present. We asked the question about the Surf Scoters and we got the negative (usual) reply! With a flat sea and the sun behind us we began to search through the ever-moving flock of thousands of Common Scoter. We must have a chance of picking one up of these resplendent American sea ducks. Luckily it was myself that finally found a cracking drake Surf Scoter, we really deserved to find one after many hours of searching in unfavourable conditions didn’t we? It did not end there with up to 6 male Velvet and a further 3 more Surf Scoter being found. A few Fulmar,Brent Geese, Red Throated Divers,Guillemot & Razorbills were also seen, a really excellent haul. A very, almost tame Iceland Gull had been present on the beach at Pensarn for a while now so we called in to see it and take a few pictures, guess what? it had flown off just before we got there! A few Ringed Plovers made up our day in North Wales and the usual traffic problems haunted us on the way home, but it had all been worth it as we all got around 10+ new birds for the year lists. Cracking day out.

Dave O.

We thought we would have a change and have a trip on a Saturday with myself, Bob K & Steve K for company, with Steve K driving. We quickly worked out a trip into Yorkshire with a  couple of new sites on the agenda. We met at a time that had allowed more sleep and we set off into a dense fog patch from Rochdale to Brighouse, it cleared as we arrived at Fairburn Ings near Castleford to reveal a nice winters morning. After a visit to the far end of the reserve and watching up to 40 Red Legged Partridge feeding in a field. A pair of  Pintail  were also seen. We were told that the male & female Smew were in the Village Bay area by one of the locals. These beautiful ducks were soon seen on the water and after a couple of minutes took flight towards the visitor centre, a Kingfisher was seen by Steve K. As we headed towards York around the Bramham area A64/A1 a single Red Kite was seen (thanks for the tip Mark K) Our first visit to Rufforth Airport to watch the many different types of small & large gulls that are usually drawn to the area by the local tip was quite a successful one. It’s not an easy place to find but the large flocks of gulls that gather in the area help you get there. Around 5/6 birders were already on station and as we set up an Iceland Gull was soon found as we searched the bathing gulls. The microlight aircraft, that were landing and taking off, kept flushing the gulls, but it meant birds from the various flocks came towards the area we were watching and an adult Glaucous Gull was then found by one of us, what an excellent bird! Both these white winged birds were well watched and really enjoyed in the hour or so we were there, nice place to visit. We now had a bit of a dilemma, there had been 2 Great Grey Shrikes reported in the south part of Yorkshire the day before, but as yet not reported today. So, we headed off back into Lancashire to find the single Waxwing at Orrell Water Park. As we reached the area we saw cameras pointed skywards and quickly the Waxwing was seen and photographed. It was a little unusual seeing a single bird after the large flocks of recent years. A look around the water park for a Mandarin & a Water Rail were unsuccessful, but the star bird showed really well eating apples on a bird feeder in someones front garden. Another visit along Rindle Road, Astley Moss did not reveal the hoped for Yellowhammer, but a Sparrowhawk and lots of Reed Bunting were seen. Good trip out.

Dave O.IMG_8464

Nearly a full squad of “A” Teamers for a trip to the seaside, with the promise of some different birds and a couple from last year, who seemed to be wintering. We left a snowy Norden around 7-30am after a few “local difficulties”, well put Chris, who took the wheel. We got through the various belts of icy fog and as we reached the coast it was cold but the sun was shining at times. Calling firstly at Knott End slipway for a nice Twite. Our second call was to see the first winter dark morph Pomarine Skua that had been blown into Cockers Dyke in the recent gales. The bird appeared to have an injured wing and was being supplied with some carrion / food by the local birders. We searched the bird filled coast and salt marsh and could not pick up the Pomarine Skua. I didn’t have my telescope with me, having hoped for some pictures of the close feeding skua, so, as I scanned the area with my binoculars, I kept being drawn to a strange shape in the distance, a clod of salt marsh surely? A birder said, ” I have the skua”, yes it was the clod, tip:-always take your scope with you! The bird eventually got to its feet to repel the attentions of 2 Carrion Crows, who looked like undertakers weighing up their next victim! The hoped for close up of this bird did not materialise, but 2 Mediterranean Gulls were seen. Lots of godwits,Curlews and a large skein of Pink Footed Geese flew over the bay, very nice. A trip along the coast towards Thurnham to see the Whooper & Bewick`s Swans was enjoyed, helped by one of the Flyde bird clubs members,many thanks. Golden & Grey Plovers feeding in roadside fields in large number were also noted. At Bradshaw Lane End & Eagland Hill the small feeding stations are usually filled with small finches, but only Tree Sparrows were seen and no evidence of any food for the birds. The Shore Lark was enjoyed at Rossall Point though it was still quite cold on this part of the coast, smart little bird this one. At Marton Mere the hoped for Iceland Gull, Firecrest, Long Eared Owl or Cetti`s Warbler were not located, a couple of Shoveller and a smart female Sparrowhawk were our reward. The trend continued as the regular Great Grey Shrike on Lytham Moss had not been seen for 2 hours prior to our arrival and was not located. A dash up to Parsonage Reservoir near Rishton to see a wintering Great Northern Diver was to be our last stop on a wintry birding day. Around 20 new species were enjoyed by all our team and a little more knowledge gained about Pomarine Skua`s that are on the ground!

Dave O.

Myself and Steve B just could not resist a Shore Lark at Rossall Point, Fleetwood, so off we went last Sunday. A cold, windy, grey morning greeted us both as Steve drove towards the coast, after leaving Rochdale at 8am. My last sighting of this species was in the Bolton area a few year`s ago, they are certainly not as usual as they used to be. We got to Rossall Point and a real strong wind blew the sand into our faces, as we battled the elements. A couple of “early birders”, were on the beach watching something, it was the bird a cracking male Shore Lark! We spent about 3/4 of an hour watching and trying to get a couple of pictures of the bird and the conditions were forgotten about. Well worth the effort in the end. The tide was well in as we visited the river mouth, were 5 Eiders were seen battling the strong winds. Our next stop was Lytham Moss where a Great Grey Shrike had taken up residence, not far from Blackpool Airport. It was a little hard to find at first (knowing how difficult shrikes can be for me in Lancashire) when out of nowhere it appeared sat on top of a tall bush. Always good to watch as the local Magpie chased it around and eventually gave up and left the shrike alone. In Lytham Crematorium there is a very small population of Ring Necked Parakeets, these are always worth popping in to see and  listen to and what they are up to. Pulling leaves of Holly bushes is their latest pastime, very exotic. A male Scaup was seen next on Fairhaven lake and afforded very close views with it striking plummage and diving ability. A birdwatching colleague of ours, who will not admit to living in the “made up” county of Greater Manchester, sent me a text to tell us that a Great Northern Diver had been found on Rishton Reservoir in Lancashire, so off we went in search of this large diving seabird. We reached Rishton and one of the ELOC members present, could not see the bird after a long search, had it flown off? He thought so and began to leave. Steve B had other idea`s (he had found all the birds this morning) he said, “I have got the diver, its there”. I quickly called the departing birder back to see the diver and he was pleased and so were we. All in all a really grand day out we reached home by 2-45pm.

With a counter attraction on the Wirral of Cattle Egret, Red necked Phalarope & Pectoral Sandpiper, we put it to the vote and went to Spurn on the east coast. We thought there was more potential of something “rare” turning up and we were not disappointed. A full “A” team was assembled at a dark Newhey and Bob K kindly packed us all into his car. As the mists of the motorway began to clear it became a nice, warm day as we arrived in the Spurn area. Around 6 Whinchat were seen near Kilnsea Wetlands along with 2 Little Stints. At the seawatching hide, which was almost deserted as a Honey Buzzard was in the Easington area, we managed to see a few Arctic Skua’s a single Sooty Shearwater and a Great Skua and a steady flow of more common seabirds e.g. Sandwich Tern, Common Scoter & Gannets. A trip to the Crown & Anchor carpark had us soon watching a very bright Yellow browed Warbler and a bird, which for me, was my bird of the day, a Wood Warbler, very well marked and not seen very much on autumn passage. We then walked the Canal triangle to see if we could get on the Corncrake that had been seen earlier, without any joy. The churchyard and Beacon Lane where visited without any new birds and then as lots more birders returned from the Easington area, we decided to try for the Honey Buzzard ourselves. A good look around revealed mainly Kestrel’s and Wheatears, so back to Spurn. A showy Wryneck on “Sunny Beaches” caravan park was seen next, what a lovely bird and fairly close. Then a smart Great Grey Shrike was seen from the road in the canal triangle, it was seen chasing and catching bees and was great entertainment. A trip to Sammy’s Point allowed us to watch an energetic Red breasted Flycatcher for a couple of minutes, then a tantalising glimpse of a large raptor, that promptly disappeared! A Redstart & more Whinchat’s and one of our lads had 5 Curlew Sandpipers on the falling tide, they had gone when we left Sammy’s, we also missed a Barred Warbler, you can’t see all the birds. A call at the Canal Scrape and at Kilnsea Wetlands was our last birding of the day. A bird filled trip that will be remembered as, “one of those days at Spurn”. We reached home around 5-45pm with news of a Great White Egret on one of our local reservoirs in Rossendale ummm should I go?

Dave O.




A family holiday spent at the Sahara Beach Hotel in Skanes, Monastir, Tunisia. It was our fifth visit to the area so I already knew where to go birding. Managed to do some birding every day, but mainly in the morning, usually around 6-15am as it became very warm around 9-30am. The area around this hotel is dominated by very large salt lagoons and lots of breeding birds, including Yellow legged Gull, Slender billed Gull, Little, Common and Gull billed Tern’s and good numbers of Collared Pratincole. Waders in the shape of Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover. Lots of Greater Flamingo directly behind the Monastir Airport, along with Spoonbill and Stone Curlew in small numbers. At the local dump near Sahline, up to 180 White Storks were present but the spectacle of uncountable numbers of Yellow legged Gull will stay with me for a long while! In the hotel area’s Hoopoe, Serin, Crested Lark, Bee-Eater, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Spanish Sparrow were seen in varying numbers. Around the salt lagoons various bushes and mixed habitat held up to 8 Great Grey Shrikes of the algeriencis form that allow close attention to photograph! Also in those area’ s are small numbers of Zitting Cisticola(Fan Tailed Warbler), Greenfinch, Linnet, Short Toed Lark and the abundant Rock/ Feral Dove. Smaller numbers of Collared, Laughing and Turtle Doves also.Large flocks of Spotless Starling are great to watch as they dig for food on the ground and squabble just like “our” one’s. There are lots of Swift and with a bit of luck a few Pallid Swift can be found as they chase their prey close to the ground. Small numbers of House and Sand Martins were seen, but not many Barn Swallow’s (think there is a sad decline this year in their numbers) On the journey from Enfidha Airport to our hotel a single Carrion Crow was seen flying around a small village, a bit unusual that? A single Barbary Partridge was seen one early morning in the scrub around the salt lagoons and in the evening a single Hobby was out hunting and then a flock of 5 Shelduck flew past. A few Kestrel’s and Sparrowhawk’s were seen again in small numbers. Our our return home and near the airport at Enfidha a Booted Eagle was seen hunting and great end to a very localised birding / family holiday.

Whilst one of our number was watching the Great Spotted Cuckoo in Pembrokeshire and another doing his conservation thing the 3 remaining members of the A Team (Steve B, myself and Chris B at the wheel) headed for North Wales. Our target was the Black Grouse at the well named World’s End, we left Brooks End at 6am and arrived at our destination by 7-30am. A bit of frost about but not snowbound like last year! Three aptly named Blackcocks were soon seen at the side of the track and about 30 birds in total were seen during our short visit. Its advisable to stay in your car so not scare the birds and you should have reasonable sightings. Raven, Skylark and lots of Meadow Pipits were seen but the Great Grey Shrike was not around and a couple of fly past Siskin made up the sightings. Up to 8 Surf Scoter have been seen each day from Pensarn Beach over the last week or so, must be worth a go then? The wind was fairly strong from the west as we arrived and the tide was in and the light perfect, but if you dont get all 3 at the same time your chances of seeing them are very limited. After about an hour of watching Common Scoter and a few passing Red Throated Divers, we decided to go without any success, the wind was blowing us about that much!. A nice Snow Bunting was seen on the seawall though. We headed off to Aber Ogwen / The Spinnies, were two Chiff-Chaffs were singing away, they gave this delightfull nature reserve a spring like feel. A Water Rail feeding below the bird feeders and a distant Slavonian Grebe and two Greenshank made up the species. A little detour to see some Chough`s followed and after a bit of good bird observation by Steve B two of these captivating birds were seen. Another visit to Llandulas and again Pensarn still drew a blank with the Surf Scoters, mind you they were not reported from any other birders on Sunday. A quick look in at Haughton Green Pool near Warrington did not reveal the hoped for Black necked Grebe’s but lots of people walking their dogs and low water did not help. Home by 5-30pm, with around 8 new birds for the year.

Dave O.