Great Grey Shrike

Yesterday I went to Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire with the hope of seeing the long-staying Great Grey Shrike.  The journey to the site was in no way uneventful as I saw my first Swallow of the year near Ashford-In-The-Water, which was very early.

We found the area where the shrike had been seen and it soon appeared.  It was well worth the journey and we had great prolonged views of the bird.  It stayed in the same area for ages flitting from bush to bush, probably looking for mice. It didn’t seem to mind our presence at all!  The species has been seen wintering at the site in a number of previous years, and the area looks like perfect habitat for them with plenty of silver birch and hawthorn trees.

There have been no confirmed records of Great Grey Shrikes breeding in the UK and their status is a passage migrant and around 60 winter from autumn through to early spring.  Great Greys breed in northern Europe and Asia and it is the largest of the European shrikes. They only have one brood. The species is very territorial so you’re unlikely to see more than one. They feed exclusively on insects and small vertebrates, and impale their prey on thorns, effectively keeping a larder, which is what earns them the name of the “Butcher Bird”.  The bird’s latin name, Lanius excubitor, means butcher sentinel.

Other species seen at Clumber included lots of Siskin, several female Goosander and a Darvic-ringed Mute Swan, which I have submitted to BTO. The results should come through soon so I will update this post when I get the bird’s details.