Shrikes Galore!..well not for me

October 19, 2014  •  2 Comments

After seeing the showy Steppe grey shrike showing so well in Norfolk I finally made the decision to go for it, this would involve a 6 hour drive for me and with no guarantee that it would still be there once I arrived. After looking through the internet and speaking to a few people it seemed as though there were 4 different shrike species in the county so I couldn't resist any longer.

Thursday evening just before midnight I was packing my van  and by midnight I was on my way. With no sleep at all I made the journey in 6 1/2 hours after a slight diversion. After getting some directions from fellow photographers (which were spot on) I was on the site for first light, I did however know that in the morning the light would be in the wrong direction for any photos. As it started to get light I spotted my first  two birds, a Marsh harrier and a Barn owl that perched on a fence post very close to me. As time passed more an more people turned up and hour by hour they left disappointed that the bird hadn't showed. After quite a few hours I had to admit defeat as the bird had clearly flown!

I left the site with another birder/photographer that I had met and we went to see the Isabelline shrike a few miles down the road. After a short drive and walk we were faced with a wall of birders and a few photographers all watching the active little shrike catching insects at a considerable distance. Another bird tick for me although anyone that knows me will know Im not a ticker or list maker but it was nice to see all the same. There was also a Great grey shrike locally but I knew that would be difficult to photograph and as I was only there for that day and part of the following day I didn't fancy wasting the precious little time I had left on it. We both decided to drive 2 hours to Lowestoft for the Red-backed shrike that had also been showing well.

On arrival we found the bird instantly but it also became apparent that getting a decent shot was going to be hard work, the bushes it was using were very thick and a massive factory behind were not going to give a pleasing bg. We both took a few shots of this superb little bird before we tried to position a perch to help us get the bird in the open. This little bird was having none of it and the light was fading fast so I decided I would return in the morning before setting off for home.

The following morning I returned with my brother and although the forecast was rubbish the weather was almost perfect. We placed a perch where we knew the shots would be as good as possible with what we had to work with and waited, the wait was only a few minutes and the bird was seen in the bushes again and during the next hour perched almost everywhere except our perch. We moved the perch in as close as possible without loosing our bg, once again the bird would not perch but would sometimes drop in out of sight amongst the grass and various plans growing everywhere. This time we picked up one of the many short fence posts littered around this bit of wasteland and propped it up below our perch, it was only standing a few inches higher than all the grass and weeds around it. Once again we waited and after almost four hours the bird flew into the grass and then popped up on the post, the shutters exploded with noise as we had our first opportunity of a shot with a half decent bg. After a minute or so of sitting on the post it flew right up onto the end of the perch I had placed above…..BINGO!!… patience had once again paid off and at least I managed some shots before I made the long journey home.

Red-backed shrikeRed-backed shrikeLowestoft, Suffolk


Dougie Williams(non-registered)
I admire your dedication Steve and well done on a great image!
andrew haynes(non-registered)
Respect , and just reward.
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