Thursday, 2 October 2014

Otmoor Red-backed Shrike

Whilst I have been known in the past to moan about Oxon county birding and how hard it is to make progress the truth is that I can't really complain this year. In fact I'd already manage to gain five county ticks this spring and yesterday there was an opportunity to snaffle yet another one.

I'd been staring dopily at my computer screen. It was late morning and I was starting to think about lunch. Just at that moment I got a call from Badger. Probably some web-site related query I thought, but in fact it turned out to be news of a first winter Red-backed Shrike that had been found on Otmoor. Now this was a blocker for many of us in the lower half the of county listing table and was certainly a bird that I needed. In fact there have been records in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire this year already so I'd been half expecting one to turn up in Oxon. I didn't need any further encouragement but hastily got my gear together, fired up the Gnome-mobile and headed off for Otmoor.

Fortunately the bird was located at Noke Farm so it was a mercifully short walk from parking in the village to get down to the farm. None of this running for two miles as I'd had to do in the past for my Wryneck and Whiskered Tern county ticks, this was a brisk walk of a couple of minutes. Justin Taylor arrived at the same time as I did and we hurried down past the farm together to find a dozen or so of the county's finest all at the bottom of the path looking back towards us. We spun around and looked along the barbed wire fence that borders the farm and lo and behold, there was a cracking Red-backed Shrike not more than thirty yards from us. The bird was very settled, sitting in the same location and frequently flying down to catch various insects so it made for a very co-operative photographic subject and I quickly busied myself with my digiscoping gear.

I also took some video for good measure

After a little while the assembled crowd, satiated with their Shrike views, turned to chatting instead and we all passed some time with a good old chin wag. Eventually I decided that I had to get back, not least because my VLW has texted me a shopping list so that I could pop in at the shops in Summertown on the way back home. Well, it was a small price to pay for seeing such a lovely bird at such close quarters. So that's now six county ticks this year - I wonder what the next one will be!

Happy county birders enjoying the Shrike

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