The great grey shrike

In a previous entry I mentioned that we were on the trail of a great grey shrike somewhere in the Brecon Beacons.  We didn’t have much luck last time, and the dead tree we were staring at really wasn’t that interesting.

We were working in the same area again a few days ago and caught a glimpse of the bird on the top of a dead pine far off in the distance. With the telephoto zoom on maximum and the north wind howling into are faces it was a pretty ropey shot, and the light was fading fast, so we decided to return the following day.

great grey shrike site

A ‘Countryfile’ crew was in the area apparently, but we didn’t see them.  Next day we were out at the crack of dawn huddled under the pines as near to the dead tree as we dared.  It was about 50 feet tall, so there was no point getting too near to it.  It wasn’t that long before the shrike flew into the tree, but then it disappeared around the back.  Incredibly it flew out of the tree and disappeared without anyone noticing that it had gone: this is something that a shrike seems to be able to do consistently!  The snow started falling, and several hours later we were still standing there in the cold, but we were convinced that the bird would return, and it did.  It was carrying a small prey item which was either a shrew or a small bird; it was difficult to tell at the time as very quickly it flew off either to eat of store the item in a larder.  However, I was pretty sure that after it had done what it had to do it would return to this favourite tree, and it did just that.  The great grey shrike stayed in the tree preening and primping for a good five minutes, so I kept the camera rolling the whole time.  After it had flown off we had a cuppa.  That was a great result for the team, and as a wildlife cameraman I was well chuffed.  We celebrated with a cuppa.