Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Woodchat Shrike - RARITY Class

Although i have a pager its only locally zoned and the only two pages i have ever followed up on are my only MEGA; Slaty Backed Gull & a Ringed Billed Gull. The gull is a regular at Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour Westcliff on Sea at the right time of year.

Today however; up straight at work, no client meetings until this evenning, i was debating on what to tackle next; a client call out or some year end accounting.

Fortunately the pager went off again (as it had done so yesterday as well) for a Woodchat Shrike just off the Rettendon roundabout near Wickford, Essex; a quick fifteen minute car journey.

What the hell; my scope was in the car along with walking boots and fleece, so off with the suit and on with the civi's.

Shorlty after i am standing roadside with about 10 others firmly fixed on a Woodchat - a first for me. A beautiful bird.

Lee Evans (UK 400 Club) arrived and after he spoke with a few birders he sat alone watching the bird. Now i have not spoken with Lee before and have heard all the rumours and seen the TV show, however i wanted to form my own opinions and also find out more about this bird.

I approached, introduced myself (luckily we had conversed by email previously and he remembered). We got chatting whilst fixed on the Woodchat and i asked the questions i wanted to know;

Is this a regular to England? No, normally about 20 recorded each year over summer; not normally in Essex.

Is it male or female? Lee, proceeded to inform me clearly and precisely why this was a male, highlighting the colours being warmer, the cap being of more a Rufous nature. He also mentioned the two white spots at the top of its bill, stating in the female this would normally be more banded than two spotted.

I asked if the spots were bear parts of the bill? No, they are bristles to protect the bird from prey stings; prey being bumble bees etc.

At that moment the bird flew to the right and within 10 seconds was back with an enormous bumble bee.

Lee also highlighted to me behavoir; especially when the bird was regurgitating a pellet.

After a while Lee left leaving me on the bird, where i watched it take another bee before heading back to my office.

All in all a great couple of hours on the bird and i must say Lee to me was both polite, helpfull and extremely knowledgeable about his birds offering help if i ever needed it.

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