Shrike – in song
(Well alright, sub-song at least)
May 2006, news filtered out of a Woodchat Shrike here
in Hampshire. To be precise, it was in Hambledon,
the village where cricket began.
many of the shrike family, it was confiding and for
several days, birdwatchers came from all over to catch
a glimpse of this colourful, and extremely rare, bird.
Just one or two might be blown across to the UK each
year. Its main habitat is the Mediterranean and south
of the Sahara. This individual frequented a hedgerow
along a lane, often out of sight but occasionally
sitting on a post or at the top of foliage. Click
here to view the video.
are called ‘Butcher Birds’; they will
take reptiles, small birds, rodents and have the unsociable
habit of impaling and storing their prey, such as
lizards, on thorns and spikes. Friends of mine were
once observing a Great Grey Shrike in the New Forest,
when it looked down, dropped to the ground and and
speared a Robin. That would make a Christmas card
with a difference. Although spared this, we did watch
this individual taking spiders and bumble bees.
photographed the Woodchat Shrike for 2 days, and attempted
to digiscope (taking photographs with a digital still
camera, through a telescope) as the bird flittered
between posts, fences and shrubs. Then a colleague
thought he heard it singing. We kept mum, and for
2 or 3 minutes, were privileged to see and hear it
singing, but in a very quiet, gentle manner (not loud,
as the books would have it). I set the camera to ‘Video
Mode’ and for the next 53 seconds recorded the
bird. Towards the end a car can be heard rushing past.
were surprised at the quality that the camera and
the scope can give [Nikon 8400 & Swarovski ATS80HD],
and cannot imagine that this has been tried many times
before. This was largely due to luck, the conditions
were ideal; the bird was accommodating and facing
us, there was perfect light and no wind. A couple
of more conventional pictures can be seen under the
‘Specials’ classification - http://www.natureandpictures.co.uk/albums/SPECIALS/index5.html
The Shrike had been recorded as being a female, but
when news came out about a recording of the bird actually
singing, it was changed to being a male. However -
- - now that the recording can be seen and heard,
this has again been changed. I unexpectedly received
this e-mail from Birdguides;
had a look at the video, and it is indeed a Woodchat
but given the white forehead I'd say it was a female,
despite it singing, as
it were. It's what you might call sub-song, or a female
version. Shrikes are
generally very musical with a variety of whistles,
chatters and scratchy
warbles, and a male would be a bit more forceful,
louder and more energetic.
further comments can be noted, but as matters stand,
it would seem that it was a female.