Getting good views of the Turkestan Shrike at Bempton Cliffs was harder than I expected this morning, but it was great fun trying.
The bird was visible at long range at 8am, but I had to grease a farmer’s palm with silver to get access with other birders to the yard at Wandale Farm (it all commendably went to charidee folks), where I enjoyed great views of it perched up, albeit briefly before it whizzed off to roam the hedgerows and fields behind Bempton Cliffs.
The shrike was very restless this morning, and although the bird perched on overhead wires, bushes and bare branches, it rarely paused in view for long periods of time – a contrast to the point-blank show it delivered yesterday morning.
It took nearly four hours before the shrike came reasonably close to me more by accident than design, in between snatching bees from the air and getting hassle from Reed Bunts, Yellow Wags and Mipits.
Although a beautiful bird, that was clearly getting in touch with its inner summer plumage Greater Sandplover, its bright white supercilium was not always obvious, which was a surprise – I put that down to heat haze, distance and hard summer light…. wibbly wobbly video clips of the shrike on YouTube here and here.
Apologies as ever.
Lovely red tail and big black mask, pale undercrackers, grey brown back, white wing flash and rufous crown and nape.
Any shrike is always good though… but as good as Bempton’s most famous seafarer?
After four hours of shrike, I walked down to Staple Newk, where almost an hour later the big lad flew in to circle below the cliffs exactly as it had done so many times last year – there are few birds that make the heart leap like a Black Browed Albatross, especially as this was my first encounter of the year.
The gasps of delight from a crowded platform were constant whenever it wheeled by. Marvellous.
Did the shrike make me smile as widely as the big galoot soaring through clouds of Gannets, Puffins and Kittiwakes?
It did not.
A great bird, but not in the same league for me… I eagerly look forward to more 2022 albatross encounters.