Monday, 14 November 2016

Brown Shrike - Spurn Point 31st October

I went to Skinningrove for the Eastern Black Redstart but with the possibility of a nearby Pied Wheatear at Redcar and a Daurian Shrike at South Shields. By 10:00 it was looking like neither of the two supporting birds had been seen when news came through of a Brown Shrike at Spurn. It was a lovely sunny morning and I decided to drive down the coast to Spurn. Arguably it was loosely on the way home to Derbyshire!
I arrived about 13:30 when there were perhaps 30 people watching it at the southern edge of the canal zone. It remained distant, never closer than 100m, but gave decent telescope views and was very actively chasing insects. I took some photos for the record. It was a first for Spurn, second for Yorkshire and about 20th for Britain. It was my second having seen one on the western edge of its wintering range in Pakistan in the late 1970's so it was nice to refresh a somewhat distant memory! 

Brown Shrike - first winter
Birders watching the Brown Shrike late afternoon
Even with poor photos it's surprising how much information can be available which would be difficult to convey with just written notes.
In the photo above the short primary projection beyond the tertials is very apparent, looking closely at the photo you can just make out 5 primary tips. In Red-backed you would see 6 or 7 primary tips  as per the photo of Red-backed taken below on Rhodes at the end of October.
Red-backed Shrike - 1st winter
The short, pointed, outer-tail feather is also visible on the same photograph which is another strong indicator of Brown. The absence of a rufous tail and dark centred tertials are perhaps the best separation from Daurian (L isabellinus isabellinus) and Turkestan (L isabellinus phoenicuroides) Shrikes which are treated as separate species in some taxonomies.

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