Great Grey Shrike – Crab Tree Bog, New Forest

Having already seen 7 year ticks in the morning I decided there was time to try for the New Forest Great Grey Shrike again. 

A bit of background – in November 2018 Dad & I spent an afternoon at Beaulieu Road Station trying to see a Great Grey Shrike, without success. They can be frustratingly difficult birds to catch up with as they often adopt huge wintering territories and can go missing for weeks as a result.

The same or another Great Grey Shrike was found on Crab Tree Bog near Rhinefield House on 16th December and on Boxing Day I paid it a visit and again spent several hours searching but didn’t manage to find it. Some consolation was provided by great views of a Hawfinch which had come down to drink from a puddle.

In early January I tried for the Shrike again and walked several miles but once again there was no sign. They are relatively small birds within a huge landscape and so it can seem a daunting challenge and after each unsuccessful trip I vowed that I wouldn’t try for it again and I’d wait for a more obliging bird next winter. However, each time it was seen again I decided that I would give it another go! Their habit of perching up on exposed branches and trees rejuvenated my optimism despite the huge area to be checked.

I parked at Puttles Bridge and on the walk I had an unexpected additional year tick, a smart Goshawk flew towards me and over my head, maybe my best ever views of this difficult species. I also had a single Crossbill calling as it flew overhead and a Dartford Warbler calling which I couldn’t locate.

I had almost completed the full loop of the likely perching points for the shrike and was gradually heading back to the car. Although I was down to the last few possible locations the final area had been fairly popular for the shrike at various times and so I hadn’t totally given up hope. I scanned a stand of silver birches just west of the footbridge and was amazed to see the shrike fly up into my binocular view! 

I managed to get my scope on it and completed a few sketches before it flew out of the view and I wasn’t able to see which way it went. I couldn’t relocate it again but it was great to finally catch up with it!

A really productive day with nine year ticks (Cattle Egret, Green Woodpecker, Red-throated Diver, Sanderling, Golden Plover, Fieldfare, Barn Owl, Goshawk and Great Grey Shrike) and so I ended the day on 143.

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