It was quite a considerable achievement therefore that three of us (Kev, Wayne and myself) managed to find ourselves on our way to Staines Moor yesterday. We would have been four, but the Boy Birder was ill - he must have been to pass up on a chance of seeing a Brown Shrike.
For "Staines Moor" read "End of Heathrow Runway #1". A nice bit of habitat in a very built up area, but local birders must spend most of their time birding by sight rather than sound because of the constant roar of aircraft overhead which seemed to be taking off at a rate of 1 every 90 seconds.
A typical view while birding on Staines Moor
Despite the noise the Brown Shrike appeared happy enough in its choice of site. It was showing when we arrived and, although it disappeared from view every now and again, put on a good show.
The photo above is a bit distant but I'm sure you'll be able to pick out all the salient ID features in the close up photo below.
I'm sure you'll agree that his is clearly a Brown Shrike!
Having easily bagged the shrike - a lifer for all of us - we had plenty of time to kill. We briefly toyed with the idea of going for the Red-flanked Bluetail at Minsmere. That was slightly out of our range for the day, so where could we go to 'top' "Heathrow Runway #1"? Easy - Didicot rubbish tip.
And so it was that an hour later we were scanning the fields around the rubbish tip for the Azorean Yellow-legged Gull that had been seen there lately. There were plenty of gulls but no sign of our gull amongst them. So we switched our efforts to a pool just oustide the tip. Overhead I counted at least 34 Red Kite which nearly made up for the unpleasant surroundings.
There were a few hundred gulls on the pool with plenty more coming or going. We gave them all a good 'grilling' (well, a light 'toasting' at least) but there was still no sign of the atlantis. On the other hand, there was another gull there which certainly deserved some more attention. Over the next half an hour we gave it a good going over and noted the key features needed to allow us to positively identify it as a 1st winter Caspian Gull. An unexpected lifer for all of us.
Seeing the Brown Shrike was obviously very special. But, somehow ticking this gull, although regularly seen in the UK now, gave me a lot more satisfaction. I'll think I'll be thumbing my Olsen & Larsson more often in future. Oh, and if you're looking for me, I'll be down Lamby Way Tip.