Lesser Grey Shrike at Hollesley Marsh – 7th Sep

When I checked RBA on Saturday evening and saw there was a new Lesser Grey Shrike just north of Ipswich, it was an easy decision to go for it. This species was not only on my south Europe wish list (ie birds missed so far) but I had dipped on it a year ago in this same area of Suffolk. On that occasion a long-staying LGS had decided to leave on the day I chose to visit, setting off a run of negative twitching results that persisted for the rest of 2013. Sod’s law owed me a pay-back today!

Hollesley Marsh is a RSPB-managed area of coastal grazing marsh at the southern end of Orford Haven. I arrived at 8am and while tooling up a local birder from Ipswich parked behind me. We walked along the sea wall together to where the Shrike had been performing for an audience on the previous day. Two more birders, who had been there for 50 minutes already, said there was no sign of it. More people soon arrived and I lingered for about an hour. The consensus was that the bird could have relocated to the nearby village of Shingle Street where there had been a past record, so I went for a look around there.

This location struck me as a very good migration fall point. Small birds were buzzing around everywhere and I came across some more locals who were on a Pied Flycatcher. So I got to see the area’s second most interesting visitor of the day. Then someone’s pager went off: the Shrike was back on its patch just up the road.

Returning to my start point I walked quickly out along the sea wall to tick this important lifer. The bird was now atop a bramble bush across a creek from where it had been on Saturday, and several birders were close to it. I then walked around to join them to be greeted by: “You should have stayed where you were, it’s over that side now.” Never mind, I had seen it and from this position the diagnostic features could be identified. After a rest I walked back round to the first spot again and guess what, the bird had returned to its favoured perch.

That was enough chasing: I stayed where I was and waited for it to relocate again. News having gone out on RBA, many more birders were arriving on either side of the creek. The Shrike, a female was now in a good light and the diagnostic features could be seen more clearly still as she hunted from her perch and assembled her larder. When she crossed over again I followed three guys who had seen where she landed, and we edged ever closer taking pictures all the while. I was careful to keep just behind the lead birder, and when he eventually put the bird up (oh yes he did, not me!) I even got a grainy flight shot.

Mission accomplished. Most of the birders on the marsh were working the Suffolk coast, but I had seen what I came for and so headed home. I feel on a roll now, with two much sought lifers in successive weekends. And this bird has not been reported again on 8th or 9th September, so sod’s law has indeed given me a payback.

No plaudits for photography today, but these pictures relate the experience:

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