Monday, 17 August 2015

Red-backed Shrike

I was just arriving at Seaford when an alert came up for a Red-backed Shrike on the Cuckmere, just south of the Visitors Centre. It was only a few minutes away and too good a chance to miss, although it sounded as though it was on the main route down to the beach, so would soon be busy with day trippers.

I arrived at the car park and hurried down the track but it was just as I feared. I could see three or four people with their scopes and cameras pointed at a tree and even at a distance could see the bird perched out on the top. Sounds promising, but there was also a family, complete with a couple of dogs and kids kicking footballs, just about to walk between the observers and the bird - and they did. Inconsiderate or what? The bird was flushed from a perch giving clear views and with good light to a barbed wire fence where it was part concealed by the long grass.

I took a few record shots that I knew would be poor but then the bird flew off and it looked as though I had missed the chance. I searched for about an hour but then gave up and was walking back to the car when there it was, sitting in the original tree and this time completely ignoring all the people walking past. Better still it was a male in full colour plumage.

Red-backed Shrike

We soon had a mini twitch with about ten birders and various members of the public stopping to ask what was going on. A few were genuinely interested but most seemed to be more keen on taking pictures of the twitchers than of the bird.

Breast pinkish or light brown tinge dependant on lighting

Crown blue grey and back reddish brown

Fortunately things soon died down and most of the birders moved off, happy that they had their year ticks. We were left with just four bird photographers, happy to have seen the bird but unhappy, as they always are, knowing that there is a better photograph than the one they have just taken.

In hunting mode

I called in at Steyning on the way back to have a look for Brown Hairstreaks but I had left it a bit late in the day. There were a few of the more common butterflies flying but the Brown Hairstreaks were nowhere to be seen.

Common Blue - nice butterfly but the wrong colour

I am not sure who found the Shrike but my thanks for passing on the information. It was a great bird to see and to photograph.

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