No! this is not another joke about monkeys.
I managed at last to visit Hartlepool Headland this lunch time to search for the, by now, much viewed and photographed Woodchat Shrike.
Thanks to information from Bird Forum members, I managed to find the spot and came across three people who had found the Shrike in its favourite spot around the Holly tree.
I had left home this morning intending to drop in to Hartlepool if my meeting in Middlesbrough finished early enough (having had the same plan last week, but that meeting over ran). I had reached the Tyne Tunnel before I realised that my binoculars were still at home. Thankfully two Scottish ladies, who pointed me in the direction of the Shrike, were kind enough to let me use their scope.
The many brilliant photographs of this bird on Bird Forum do the Shrike full justice. It's a fantastic little bird; a rather corpulent sparrow sized character with a fat beak. Whilst it lacks the splendour of a breeding plumaged male, it has an intricate pattern of blotches and shades and a perky personality which makes it rather endearing. I could only afford fifteen minutes before heading back to work, but it was well worth the trip.
Over the weekend I finally succumbed and bought a niger seed feeder. Two hours later a Goldfinch was tucking in enthusiastically. I now await the arrival of Siskins, which have hitherto visited briefly and disappeared once they discovered that the black stuff is sunflower seed.
I have been reading up on the hoarding activities of Coal Tits. We have three Coal Tits visiting at present. Over the last three weeks I suspect that they have hidden about 50% of the sunflower seed that I have put out. Evidently they subsequently fail to find about 80%, but I assume that other birds benefit from coming across the cache. The Coal Tits each have a distinguishing mark that has allowed me to estimate that they have feeding and caching activity in about one hour bursts every hour or so. During these periods of activity they each visit about once every twenty five to thirty seconds - that's a lot of seed!