Over the last couple of weeks, the garden feeders have been very busy. Large numbers of Starlings have visited and gone through a prodigious amount of mixed seed. We have regularly had ten Greenfinches and up to six Blackbirds (all male) at a time. The Great, Blue and Coal Tits are daily visitors and three Chaffinches seem ever present. A pair of Collared Doves come in fits and starts and there are always House Sparrows, Dunnocks and Robins in the vicinity. I will never tire of watching our more common birds.
Last winter I invested in a niger feeder, but apart from a family of Goldfinches that used the feeder regularly from mid summer onwards, it has not been the hoped for success. The Goldfinches have not visited for some time; there will be plenty of wild seed available in this very mild weather. Perhaps if we get a few cold snaps we may see them return. We had a very brief visit from Siskins last year; perhaps we will be lucky again, but I have not heard any flying over thus far this winter.
Today my beloved and I decided to go for a walk at Prestwick Carr. As is my usual habit, I have left visiting the Short Eared Owl spectacular and the added bonus of the Great Grey Shrike until everyone else has had their fill.
It must be at least 26 years since my last Great Grey Shrike, however, my track record in seeing them has always been good. In my mid twenties I regularly saw them at Gibraltar Point NNR in Lincolnshire, occasionally from very close quarters. So I was confident that, if the Shrike was still at Prestwick Carr, I had a more than even chance of seeing it.
We arrived at 14:00 and immediately saw two Short Eared Owls and then a third and a fourth. During the next hour and a half we saw at least six and probably seven. Well worth the trip just to see them alone. They were often flying quite high and chasing each other, uttering that strange cross between a hiss, a rattle and a squawk.
The Great Grey Shrike was reported as having been seen at the Ponteland end and heading off west. About half way down (or is it up?) the bumpy road I suddenly saw it perched on a small tree. It promptly flew over the firing range, but landed within binocular range and sat for ten minutes.
There were plenty of visitors enjoying the show today, including a number of familiar faces. I do hope the lady who, on being told where to see the Shrike, hurried up the road (followed by a young man I took to be her son), was able to get as good a view as we had enjoyed, having evidently had three previous unsuccessful visits.