Had a text message last night from Steve saying:
"pinky has had red backed shrike at priors fen this evening"
I put the message out on Peterbirder and Cambirds and Brian offered me a lift in the morning.
Red-backed Shrike is a seriously rare vagrant to Cambridgeshire, despite its proximity to the east coast. Records from recent years are as follows:
April 2004: seemingly unconfirmed report from Wicken Fen.
June 2003: unconfirmed report from a Burwell garden, and a male briefly at Buckden.
Sept 2001: one at the BirdLife Internation HQ in Girton for three days.
So you'd think there would be a bit of demand for this bird. It seems not. When Brian and I arrived at about 6.50am, there were only two people there - Mike Weedon and Dan Williams. People round here moan about not hearing about local 'rarities', but when the grapevine swings successfully into action and everybody finds out about it, nobody turns up! Some people...
We all had a good eyeful and plenty of digiscoped photos were taken. The bird seemed relaxed and we might have pushed our luck by trying to sneak closer. Brian also took some photos; visit the new Peterborough Bird Club photo gallery blog to see them - make sure you bookmark it!
It was interesting to see other birds interacting with the shrike. A couple of Reed and Sedge Warblers had a good look, keeping their distance, as did a pair of Reed Buntings, but a pair of Blue Tits paid no attention whatsoever. They'll never have seen a shrike before...
Other birds on show at the same site included:
Whinchat, 1 (on edge of Middle Pit)
Golden Plover, 20 with large Lapwing flock
Marsh Harrier, 1
I usually despise Prior's Fen; it's a long walk across a ploughed-up footpath with often little reward at the end. So thanks must go to Kevin for putting in the initial effort. It was actually a very pleasant couple of hours' birding. Must Try Harder.