Great Grey Shrike near Enstone – 24th Jan

It seems worth recording that despite my modest British bird list currently 305, out of all the birds reported yesterday on RBA there were only seven species that I have not seen. And those were mostly very far away. Without national motivation this left local birding to make the weekend worthwhile. One of the notable birds in Oxfordshire over the last few days has been a Great Grey Shrike in the north of the county, so that was where I headed this morning.

On arriving at the location just north of Enstone airfield, where the bird was reported a day earlier, a local birder was starting his search southwards on the B4022. So I decided to park a little further on and walk back to that spot, but the Shrike was not visible in the roadside hedges. A familiar silver Skoda then drew up containing Oxonbirders Badger and Andy Last, and company was very welcome as I could tell this would not be an easy twitch. Together we searched up and down and to one side of the road for about an hour, then a fourth Oxonbirder Barry Batchelor also arrived. That was a good omen since in my experience when this man is present the bird is usually found (just an observation!).

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We next checked further south towards Enstone where the GGS had been seen two days ago, but still without success. Badger and Andy decided to move on but Barry said he’d give it a bit longer. I headed back towards my car scanning around as I went, then my phone rang. Sure enough it was Andy saying that Barry had located the Shrike. As I walked quickly back towards where I had last seen Barry, something very pale flushed out of a hedge on my left (pictured above) and settled a little further away. This had to be the GGS and indeed it was. I attempted to melt into a hedge on the opposite side of the road and reached for my digiscoping collar. The record shot (below) is of my usual Shrike quality.

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This is so typical of Great Grey Shrikes: you cannot find them for an hour or two then suddenly they sit up to be noticed. Once the four of us were back in the same place the bird went down into the hedge then reappeared a little further away. We all hung around for a while hoping it would come closer and allow some reasonable photography, but the subject chose to conceal itself instead. I decided to retrieve my car then things started to get crowded. More vehicles arrived and these newcomers’ prospects lessened when they were quickly succeeded by members of the local field sports fraternity. It seemed that a shoot was soon to commence in the fields before the growing group of observers, and so we four Oxonbirders dispersed.

From left: Andy, a visiting birder, Barry, Badger

From left: Andy, a visiting birder, Barry, Badger

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