Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Woodchat

In a list of the pros & cons of self-employment, being your own boss is clearly going to feature. Yes, being your own boss is great. But what they don't tell you is that it ought to feature under both headings, because taking time off whenever you like can sometimes be way too easy...

After a bit of a lie-in, leisurely breakfast and review of the previous night's nocmig, I was just about to head out to work yesterday when I learned that a Woodchat Shrike had been found at Cogden. A tweet from finder Paul Harris (in which I had kindly been tagged) and a call from Mike Morse, almost simultaneously, ensured I did not miss this opportunity to see one of my 'local most-wanted' birds. A quick trip to Cogden before work then? Er, wait a sec...

My schedule for the day was pretty tight, customers all booked in, and I know only too well that a 'quick trip' to see a bird is usually anything but. Despite these obvious hindrances to shrike-twitching, I was still pretty amazed to find myself heading off to work like a responsible person. Where that shred of sensibleness had come from, I do not know.

Generously, the Woodchat lingered all day in the same area, but when eventually I turned up there at about 17:45 it was nowhere to be seen. An hour later, ditto. From three searchers we were now down to two. Viv went one way, and I the other. Thankfully, Viv found it a few minutes later. I was back in a flash.

The Woodchat spent about fifteen minutes in exactly the same spot, before diving into the hedge, and out of view again...

The time is 18:53. Evening sun illuminating from the right; azure sea as a backdrop. Simply wonderful.

I assume the grey mantle, plus extent of pale area on lores/around eye, make this a female

Relaxed mode. Just look at that gorgeous chestnut cap.

All day I had been encouraged by the knowledge that shrikes will sometimes linger happily in a favoured spot, and this bird appeared to be doing just that. My only concern was that an over-zealous photographer might approach too closely and unsettle it. That didn't happen, and I am glad. The hedges of West Bex and Cogden are among the shrikiest I have seen anywhere, and I have long desired to see a spring Woodchat decorating one. I got my wish. As I type, it is present for a second day. I hope that its visitors continue to give it space, so that as many as wish to can enjoy this stunning scarcity in such beautiful surroundings.

6 comments:

  1. Awesome. Hoping one will get a bit more lost and end up round here one day 🙂

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    1. Stunning birds for sure. Shame they're so rare. It would be so great to see them a bit more often.

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  2. Hi Gav - lovely photos of a fabulous looking bird. The blue of the background looks amazing too! Would love one of those in Exmouth but I've yet to see any shrike species within the parish. I think your orchid in the last post is Heath Spotted - it certainly looks like the numerous Heath Spotteds we have up on the pebbled heaths - a wide lower lip which is only slightly lobed. Was it in a 'heathy' habitat? All the best. Matt

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    1. HI Matt, thanks ever so much for the orchid ID. I was hoping it would be Heath Spotted. The habitat is part of a good-sized DWT reserve, and home to many orchids I think.

      Amazed you've yet to see a shrike in Exmouth! The only Devon Woodchat I've seen was just across the river, on the Warren, in about 2008. Early June if I recall correctly. I think I'm right in saying that apart from [presumably] historically breeding Red-backed, the Axe patch was shrikeless until quite recently. Compare that with West Bexington and Cogden, with 4 shrikes in the last three years. So far! 😄 Not fair!

      Thanks again Matt. 👍

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  3. Fine bird, wouldn't mind one of those locally! Agree it's female and looks to have some brownish primaries - retained juv feathers so 2cy I'd say.

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    1. Great, many thanks for your expertise Tim. 😊👍

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