Saturday, 10 January 2015

A Bit of Luck on Aylesbeare Common

After spending almost all the daylight hours available on Tuesday at Aylesbeare Common and only getting a brief view of the very elusive Great Grey Shrike, my luck changed somewhat yesterday morning when I got superb views not long after arriving there. On my way to the shrike's favoured area (if indeed it really does have one, because it's usually very mobile) I heard the familiar scratchy call of a Dartford Warbler and started scanning the gorse bushes for him. After a minute or to he unexpectedly popped up right beside me. I managed to get a few shots of him before he realized his mistake and made for cover.

A bit of foreground gorse bush in the way on this one but I like the position he has his legs in, 
 looks most uncomfortable!

After this delightful encounter with the Dartford Warbler I walked on to have a look in an area where I've been lucky enough to see the Great Grey Shrike in a particular tree on a couple of previous occasions. At first I couldn't see it and my attention was taken away momentarily when I spotted the small herd of ponies which graze on the common. I hadn't seen them around for a while and whilst I was was standing there admiring them I glanced back at the tree in question and there it was, the shrike! It hadn't been there just a moment before... it really is very mercurial. Fortunately it didn't seem at all bothered by my presence even though I was nearer to it than I've been on previous occasions. I think because I was in amongst the group of ponies it just saw me as one of them. I got some nice shots of it but the strong light/low morning sun caused a few blown highlights as I was taken a bit by surprise and didn't have time to alter my camera settings. Still I'm pretty happy with them.

 It soon flew off to a much more distant tree where it stayed for a long while. I watched as first a Chaffinch and then a Meadow Pipit tried to mob it. When it moved trees again the Meadow Pipit shrewdly followed it and sat in an adjacent tree. I fancied it was thinking along the lines of  "The closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm." as said by Pippin in The Lord of the Rings.

A more typical view of the bird. 
It stayed in this tree for a good twenty minutes.

Amazingly a few minutes later I stumbled upon it again sitting in a tree on the edge of one of the main tracks and again I got reasonably close to it, not as close as when I had ponies for cover! The light was  a lot better though.

 It then flew low into some gorse where I'm pretty sure it caught something, before flying out again and into thick cover. It was too quick for me to see what it was though... I'm betting it wasn't that canny Meadow Pipit... and I'm hoping it wasn't a Dartford Warbler.


JRandSue said...

The sort of luck i could do with,these are the top end of excellent.
Happy New Year.

Karen Woolley said...

Thanks John. Lucky days like this certainly make up for those when you see nowt!

A Happy New Year to you and Sue too.