Saturday 18 May 2019

Woodchat Shrike - 17/18 May 2019

This post is not about a bird on Burray, but is worthy of a mention.

Usually on a Friday I try and work from my employer's Kirkwall office on the Hatston industrial estate. However, this Friday my car needed to go into a garage over in Stromness for its annual service and first MOT so I worked from the main office in Stromness.

As the car was going into the garage I left my camera bag and bins at home. So imagine my frustration when I got a message at 09:30 to say that an adult female Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), a lifer for me, had been seen in some bushes near to the Orkney Cheese factory, only a 5 minute walk from the Kirkwall office!!

I had to cross my fingers and hope it would still be there at home time so I could go and take a look. It was looking hopefully as a number of folk were providing updates throughout the day confirming it was still around.

As soon as I got my car back from the garage I set off and headed to the reported location. As I drove down the road I could see up a head three ladies leaning against their cars with binoculars raised and pointing at the bushes. I pulled up at the bushes around 17:30 and within a couple of minutes had seen the bird without the aid of bins. a couple of the ladies offered me the use of their bins to get a closer look, which was much appreciated.

The bird was using the bushes and fence line in front of the bushes as suitable perches to watch for unsuspecting insects then it would fly down onto the open grass are in front of the bushes grab a victim and fly back to a perch to feast on its prey.

Whist we were all watching the Shrike and getting some very good views of it there was a discussion on how big the bird was. As it flew up onto one of its favoured perches it was joined by a Starling which provided the answer, it was slightly smaller than the Starling.

As I was going to be coming into town on Saturday morning, it was obvious that I would need to make a detour complete with the camera and bins. It would also allow my wife to see the bird as well.

A report on the birding network at 07:10 confirmed that it was still around. We set off at around 09:00 and as we pulled up in the same place that I had stopped in last night the Shrike could be seen straight away sitting on a branch.

Out came the camera an several record shots taken.

The Woodchat Shrike usually breeds in southern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East and usually overwinters in tropical central Africa.It often overshoots its breeding range on spring migration, and is a rare, but annual, visitor to the UK. In the case of this bird it overshot by quite a bit!!

From what I can gather this is the 19th record for Orkney and the 6th record for Orkney Mainland so I'm very pleased I managed to see it.


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