Sunday, 1 November 2015

Otmoor Shrike

When I came back from my Cornwall trip naturally I caught up with the Oxon sightings on the Oxon Birding Blog. It turned out that the only bird that I'd missed had been a Brent Goose which had dallied at Farmoor reservoir for part of one morning. That really brought home to be the difference between Cornwall and Oxon - it's just so depressing birding in an inland county. I wouldn't mind so much if my Port Meadow patch was back on form but whilst the floods are gradually starting to re-form it's still depressingly birdless there. Still, we were due back down in Cornwall for the half term holiday so I was expecting soon to be back amongst some birds. However, the weather forecast wasn't exactly looking great and my VLW and I discussed the possibility of delaying our visit by a few days, though we still intended to go down there.

Fate however had other ideas and last weekend I manage to put my back out - too much sitting in front of the computer screen the previous week sadly. I was reduced to hobbling around the house like an old man, not able to do any work and just getting bored. I found that the only thing that alleviated my symptoms was walking so I'd hobble around the Patch at least twice a day and each time by the end of it I'd find that it had loosened up a bit, only to tighten up again when I sat down. So when news came out early afternoon last Tuesday of a Great Grey Shrike that Tezzer had managed to find down at Otmoor I decided that by way of a break from the monotony of walking around Port Meadow I'd go down to Otmoor instead. I'd get a reasonable walk in along the bridleway to July's Meadow where the Shrike was and with any luck I'd get to see a nice bird too. So this is what I did. 

It was rather gloomy when I arrived at July's Meadow mid afternoon. I'd made the mistake of bringing my tripod and scope with me which wasn't helping my back at all so it had been a rather slow progress hobbling walk along the bridleway and down to July's Meadow. There I met up with Tezzer and another birder who reported that the Shrike was favouring an Ash tree along the left-hand side of the Meadow though it hadn't been seen for about half an hour and that they were going to look for it. I'd had enough of walking so leant against a wooden post scouring the Meadow whilst they conducted their search. Time passed, they returned, Badger arrived, we all chatted but there was no sign of the Shrike. Eventually we gave up and wandered back along the footpath to the car park and I made my way home.

The next morning of course the bird was reported again in the same place and with nothing else to do and still unable to sit down and work I decided to have another go for it. This time I left my scope behind and armed just with my bins and super-zoom camera I hobbled off once more to the Meadow. There I soon spotted Pete Roby, clearly watching the Shrike which was in the top of it's Ash Tree so I went over to join him. Tezzer came to join us and we passed a very enjoyable hour or so watching the Shrike, looking at the Yellowhammers and Redpolls in the nearby plantation and generally chatting. It was a shame that I didn't have my scope and digiscoping gear with me as I wasn't able to take any decent photos but it was nice to see the bird which was nicely lit up in the morning sunshine and my back was certainly grateful for not having to lug my heavy gear around.

This was the best that my super-zoom camera could do

Having had my fill of the bird and with my back now nicely loosened up again I made my way back to the car and back home again. It's always nice to go and see Shrikes as they really are the twitcher's friend: sitting up on high vantage points for long periods and generally remaining faithful to one area. It certainly made for a nice local mid-week outing.

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