Shrike It Lucky.

Sifting through the archives again, I found I'd had a lucky break during a two hour visit to Aldcliffe six years ago today on 8 May 2014. 

I had dealt with some business in Lancaster by 12.15pm, but had to return there by 2.30, so my best plan to get a bit of birding in was to give Aldcliffe a couple of hours, a walk along the embankment, check the flood, and return via the path back to the depot at Keyline. 

I began to make my notes having heard a Blackcap and Chiffchaff both singing, a Song Thrush always a nice bird to see, and at Marsh Point a Whitethroat, male Reed Bunting, a Dunnock, and a distant Common Sandpiper along the edge of one of the smaller pools. I turned south to do the embankment trundle, a nice little Whinchat off here would have been nice. But never mind that, I've just lifted my bino's to take a good look through the stubble field from Dawson's Bank and the hedgerow running along the edge of it when....

Bank Pool From Dawson's Bank. Pete Woodruff.

....atop of this tree was a stunning male Woodchat Shrike waiting to be spotted and to send my passion for the birds through the roof once again.

The first Woodchat Shrike for Britain was shrouded in a bit of mystery, when two brothers named Paget recorded a bird in the village of Bradwell in Norfolk April 1829. A farmer reportedly had shot the bird and had preserved it, though no trace of the specimen was ever found. Prior to this first record, there had been an unacceptable report of an immature bird in County Durham, September 1824.

More up to date and 149 years later, the first for Lancashire was found in the grounds of Rossall School in June 1978. The second also in the Fylde, was found on the dunes at Fairhaven Lake August 1987, then a year later an adult at Heysham Power Station April 1988, and 11 years later a juvenile at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve August 1999.

Today the Woodchat Shrike is an annual spring and autumn visitor to Britain, those in the spring are regarded to be overshooting adults and 1st year birds, and occur mostly from mid-April to early June, dates which fit nicely with my adult bird at Aldcliffe which was my second Woodchat Shrike, the first being a juvenile, and my records read....Watching Honey Buzzard in the Rusland Valley, John Leedal and myself were alerted to a bird at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve 28 August 1999. We shot off to LM to have good if distant views of my first Woodchat Shrike which was a juvenile.

Interestingly, the Woodchat Shrike was taken off the BBRC Rarities List in 1981, but the species as not become noticeably more common in Lancashire since then.

My first 2 Swift over Bowerham yesterday, three days earlier than last year 10 May. We have two young Blackbird in our garden, and a pair of Blue Tits are nesting in the nest box, presumably this is the pair which performed well at the bird table, with one bird feeding the other. I can find no literature which makes any mention of this behaviour of one adult  Blue Tit feeding another, other than the male feeds the female at the nest whilst incubating.