Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Brown Shrike ticked!

This weekend we were in London celebrating the 90th birthday of my still very young grandmother. On Sunday morning I saw pictures of a Brown Shrike that had been ringed only an hours drive from Oslo and thought oh well, that’s a nice bird. After it was ringed it was seen very briefly by one person (despite many looking) but no one managed pictures. Yesterday it was seen by more people but again no pictures and the bird was described as extremely skulky and was only seen for a couple of seconds at a time either in flight or obscured in a bush. Not exactly tickable views I thought, but it is a species I have never seen and also one that is interesting from an ID perspective so I decided to go for it this morning. I found out that the area where it was seen was not very large and I reasoned that with luck and fieldcraft that I would be successful (if it was still present). I had the company of Anders BS and we arrived at 09:30. We were far from the first to arrive but no one had seen it. Given that its favoured area was still in shade and that it was windy if hardly felt surprising that it wasn’t around.

After a while though it was seen briefly (not by me) although again no photos and we all kept looking. It was then seen in flight and landed and disappeared in an area of bushes in a reedbed. We stood and waited and waited and the bird finally flew up and landed in the back of a bush. I could actually see it through the branches (and was lucky in that perspective) and with a scope would have been able to see ID features but as it was what we had all seen was a bird that could have been a Brown Shrike in an area where we knew a Brown Shrike had been ringed two days ago but none of us, hand on heart, could at that point have seen the necessary features to nail an ID of such a difficult species.

The search resumed and finally it was seen and photographed only to disappear before other people arrived. I chose to walk in the oppostite direction figuring that the bird had already moved away from that area and scared up a little, brown job from an area of grass that perched long enough in a bush for me to raise the camera, focus and fire off 6 shots in the course of a second (of which only 4 captured the bird) before the bird flew off. My views were good enough to say it was a shrike sp but it is only by studying my pictures that I can say that it was a Brown Shrike. It was not seen by anyone else and after hanging around for a while everyone then went to other areas and I went back to the car for some lunch. 50 minutes later I walked through the same area and it flew up from the grass again and landed in a bush for maybe 10 seconds allowing me some more pictures before again just vanishing.

So, today I got to experience the “tickable views” dilemma again although I wonder if it is a dilemma that many other people have….I think that it might be a British thing as we had it drummed into us that we had to be able SEE (heard only isn’t allowed) it well enough to identify it ourselves if we were to tick it.  The views that I attained (and I got the best and longest views in the 4 and half hours I was there) do not count as tickable views by that definition. Brown Shrike is a difficult bird even with OK photos so there is no way it can be safely identified with bad 5 second views in flight or obscured in a bush at range. I was lucky enough to get some photos to conclude what I saw but without the pictures I do not see how I could have ticked this bird. But we all have different definitions of tickable views (and I am learning that the description “good”/”bra” views is also very much open to interpretation!)

My best picture taken at 12:14 when the bird sat in this bush for 5 seconds. It is very similar to Red-backed or Turkestan/Isabelline Shrike and to make a positive ID requires looking at subtle characters. The short primary projection separates from Red-backed and the bird is probably too dark for Turkestan Shrike. None of my pictures show the diagnostic tail pattern properly but here it seems that there are 3 much longer and pointed feathers. Brown Shrike is supposed to be larger than the other 2 species but this individual felt as though it was significantly smaller. This picture does show the bill to be heavier than would be expected on the other species

the uncropped pic

these were the 4 pictures I got so one second later and it would have been too late

when I saw it again at 13:03 it perched in this spot for maybe 10 seconds and I managed a few more pictures but all looking similar. If these were the only photos of the bird then it's ID may not have been possible to nail 

the ring on the left leg is visible 
my picture at 10:19 when the bird was perched in the back of this bush but my picture hasn't even captured a blurred shape of a bird

the area the bird was using. The pictures are from the left X and the 10:19 bush shot is from the right hand X

close up of the area where I photographed the bird

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