Sunday, 28 March 2010

Harwood hike to take a butchers at a Shrike

Knackered. That was after yesterday's failed attempt to see the Great Grey Shrike at Harwood Forest. Rather than take the easy route to Tutehill Moss from Harwood village, I opted for the scenic route starting from Fontburn reservoir. Big mistake.

Setting off around Fontburn Reservoir

Heading over the top to Harwood Forest to the sound of Skylarks.

Finally I entered the enchanting Harwood Forest.

Unfortunately, I grossly underestimated just how long and hard this hike would be. And to add to the woe I made the error of 'shortening' the route by going 'off track'.

There are lots of these off track.....

..... I fell in most of them.

Soaked to the knees I stumbled on and as I approached what I thought was Tutehill Moss I spotted a light coloured bird on top of a very distance spruce. Through the scope it was impossible to ID because of the distance, wind shake and by being slightly obscured by branches. It could well have been a ball of 'string'. I got as far as the metal tower but no bird to be seen. As I now know I was looking in the wrong place. With only 3 hours of daylight left I headed back and collapsed in Fontburn at sunset, wet and disappointed.

This morning I decided to have another go, especially as winter is set to return tomorrow - Harwood is not where you want to be in bad weather. This time I drove to Harwood village and walked back to the tower (fourty mins instead of two and a half hours), and then down the hill on the track to a cleared area where a couple of birders had seen the Shrike an hour before. Thank you gents!

Here's the sweet spot:
View Shrike in a larger map

Ground Zero (Shrike is on far horizon on a dead tree stump)

With gale force winds from the NW I took shelter amongst the trees south of the area to scan for the bird. After an hour and no joy I headed around the area to the North and after another hour getting battered by the wind (strong enough to blow over a heavy duty scope and tripod) and dampened by horizontal rain showers, I sought refuge in a shooting hide. It was never going to be easy to find a small grey bird amongst the twisted remains of felled trees which are by sods law, grey!

It was from here I struck lucky after another hour. 
Scanning with the scope, there was my first UK Great Grey Shrike!

As you can see from the video below they're not called 'butcher birds' for nothing. Here it impales it's latest prey, a vole I would guess, on a branch.

Plenty of other birds too, including Buzzard, Goshawk, Redpoll, Crossbill, Siskin, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Treecreeper and Chaffinch. And Roe Deer.

The cherry on top was this Red-legged Partridge on the way up on Saturday.

Hope you all had a good weekend. Mine was brill :)

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