I'd been keeping an eye on the two rarities within reasonable driving distance since they turned up during the week with a view to "twitching" at least one of them but as Saturday dawned the Pied Wheatear which had shown so well at Oldbury on Severn was nowhere to be seen and by late morning when the forecast rain arrived the Isabelline Shrike at Porth Clais in Pembrokeshire hadn't been found either !!
I therefore spent a peaceful chilled out Saturday at the caravan with Teresa and enjoyed a cracking pub lunch at a local pub in the village.
The forecast was somewhat drier for Sunday and with no news of the rarities I decided to visit nearby Garwnant and have a look for the Great Grey Shrike that had turned up earlier in the week and was frequenting one of the clear fells.
Just as I got in the Jeep my phone bleeped to the sound of a text from Mark Hipkin informing me that the Isabelline Shrike down west had been refound at 8.30am,what to do ?
Do I head down west for a lifer and the opportunity of some quality photographs or do I spend hours in the local forestry searching for a typically elusive Great Grey Shrike.
I reckonned I had time to do both and after obtaining some good directions from both Martin Thomas and Rob Mitchell found the clear fell.
As I feared the GGS was nowhere to be seen although there were plenty of other birds around.
A GS Woodpecker perched on one of the lone "tree posts" on which I hoped to see the shrike and several Jays flew over with lots of Crossbills also flying across the treetops calling as they passed.
After a while a pale grey large raptor flew across the common on the edge of the clear fell and as it banked it's black wing tips gave it away as a crackin' male Hen Harrier,my first of the winter.
Unfortunately it flew through rather quickly and I couldn't get the camera on it,another long winged raptor a little further away a few minutes later gave itself up as a rather disappointing Red Kite.
15-20 minutes passed and as I scanned the area for the shrike another Hen Harrier appeared,this time a "Ringtail" which hung around for a minute or two quartering and crossing over the edge of the clear fell.
This gave me a little bit of time to get the camera on the bird and although a little distant I was pleased to get some hurried but reasonable record shots.The "Ringtail" soon moved on after a mobbing from a couple of crows and after an exciting half hour or so things went quiet again and with noon approaching and no sign of the shrike I decided to move on and go for the other shrike a little further west.
I eventually managed to get a mobile signal and Peter "Pedro" Morgan was well up for the twitch,1.00pm at the Harvester car park at Junc 43 0n the M4 was the arrangement and soon we were en-route to the west tip of Pembrokeshire.
We made good time and were soon walking up the hill from the car park at Porth Clais to where the bird had relocated meeting Mike Powell on the way.
The shrike was in a weedy field and had been showing to about 30m mostly in the hedgerow as it hunted for flies and bees,as we approached the gate to the field and chatted to the other birders most of whom were familier faces the bird dropped on to some weeds not 18-20' directly in front of us,result !!!
Myself,Peter and Alex Bevan who was already there let fly with the cameras for a couple of minutes as the bird performed beautifully until it disappeared back to the hedgerow.
We couldn't believe our luck and the closeness of the bird more than made up for the dreadful light (we "toggers" will always find something to complain about !!)
This had to be the "quickest" twitch I've even been on as the bird performed almost to order and the overnight disappearance of the Pied Wheatear was soon forgotten.
The light quickly began to fade,something we are going to have to get used to over the coming months and it was two very happy "toggers" who headed back east.