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Great Grey Shrike

Migration

Today was a pretty incredible day for Birding in Gwent. This morning started pretty early, arriving at Blaenserchan before sunrise to get an early look at the reported Great Grey Shrike. I bumped into local ecologist Steve Williams and as we searched together for the Shrike, we were greeted instead with a pretty large flock of 150+ Brambling! This year has been terrible for Brambling with winter numbers quite below average so it was nice to see such a large flock of them, especially this late in winter. So late in-fact that our first Spring/Summer migrants are arriving on the same day! With Chiffchaff, Wheatear, White Wagtail and Sand Martin being my first spring visitors of the year. Other birds for the day, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Yellowhammer, Greenfinch, Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and many more. 

Second evening visit, finally caught up with the Great Grey Shrike, observed for a good hour mimicking the sounds of Siskin and Redpoll, I suspect to lure them in closer for the kill. Pretty incredible birds. My favourite pic was the sun going down, just about lined it up at the top of a beach tree between the mountain in the distance. 

Work Goals

Geez! I'm absolutely shattered, the last couple weeks have been flat out in the lead up till Christmas with two assessments back to back. First, my B+E Trailer test which I was chuffed to pass and also I had my Chainsaw / Crosscutting assessment today, after a weeks crash course in Mid-Wales (Rhayadar) last week, which I also passed!. Fabulous part of Wales mind you! Red Kites everywhere, also saw a lot of Crossbill while felling with a Great Grey Shrike deep in the woodland too. Both physically and mentally draining however so ready for a 'relax' this Christmas. Doubt that'l happen but who knows! 

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If you're following my flicker page  you'll see that I have been uploading a few pictures this month. I've started a winter feeding station at a remote location with a pop up hide set up, in the hope to get some of the more common species. I've noticed that wildlife photographers tend to neglect the common species of bird because either they find them boring or don't find them a challenge to photograph. I for one know how difficult it can be to get decent, natural images of these species so I'm going to try this winter to get some in the bag that I'm happy with. Here are a few so far. 

Great Grey Shrike, Blaenserchan (Stollen my blog)

On the chance that the Bird will get used to my presence, I went straight up after work. To my disappointment, the Bird still doesn't like me. haha! No sun out today which I guess isn't such a bad thing with a light coloured Bird like this. 

Great Grey Shrike, Blaenserchan

My second trip up Blaenserchan to see the Great Grey Shrike and it showed well despite keeping its distance. I botched my only good opportunity to get a good photograph as I was doing a short video of it prior to the bird flying straight at me. I simply couldn't change the settings quick enough! grrrr. Ahh well, what a Bird! :D Yet another Beetle found on this trip but this time it was a large leaf beetle called a Blood-Nosed Beetle! Usually see them in the summer so this is another early record. Blood-Nosed Beetles get their name from the blood they excrete from their mouths when threatened: A method that works on small mammals.

Great Grey Shrike, Blaenserchan

Couldn't pass by the opportunity to see a Great Grey Shrike today between plans and boy, was I rewarded! Having listened to the stories of other Birders spending hours up their and not spotting it, I was greeted upon arrival by a singing Great Grey Shrike about 40 ft away from the path. 40ft away isn't too bad considering how big the mountain is! lol. I just about managed to get a photo between the dense branches good enough for an ID photo but the closer you got to the Bird the harder it got for photography as the Sun was on the opposite side. I'm happy either way though as it was my first sighting of a GGS and to have it on my patch meant a lot more. 

In other news! The trip brought some other firsts in the form of a Green Tiger Beetle. Having done a little read up on them, it would seem that it is fairly early in the year to be seeing them in March. Typically between May - July for Green Tiger Beetles and though described as common, I've never seen one... Something else described as 'common' is the Common Lizard of which I saw several in various places on the South facing walls. If you look carefully, You'll also notice that the Lizard has what appears to be a double tail... Perhaps a regrowth gone wrong?