30 Jun 2022

30 Jun 22 - #30DaysWild Day 30 - Clearly Not In Dorset

For the last fifteen years, I thought I had seen a Turkestan Shrike in the UK at Buckton, after seeing the UK's second record of Asian Brown Flycatcher at Flamborough in 2007. At that time, it was a subspecies of Isabelline Shrike. With 'another' Turkestan Shrike being pinned down at Bempton, I thought I had better double check the status of this record on Tuesday evening. I knew the Buckton individual was being touted as a Turkestan Shrike when I saw it & I knew it was accepted by BBRC, therefore, I had thought I was OK.

When I read the BBRC report for 2007, I saw report said "Collectively, these [features] all point to a seemingly clear example of what is assumed to be a young L. i. phoenicuroides ('Turkestan Shrike'). Its rather greyish cast and lack of obvious rufous above pointed towards it belonging with greyer birds included within 'karelini': a poorly understood and highly variable form closely allied to phoenicuroides, but possibly just a distinctive colour morph of that taxon". On the face of it, then it had seemed OK as a Turkestan Shrike.

A bit more checking showed it wasn't listed on the RBA database of previous records as a Turkestan Shrike. Time for some more reading about karelini. Fifteen years on & the position of karelini doesn't seem to be a lot clearer as to whether it is a colour form of the species, with other suggestions that it might be a stable hybrid population with Red-backed Shrike. Had I checked this earlier in the week, then I could have seen it on Tuesday. I couldn't go on the Wednesday as that is my volunteering day on the DWT Brownsea reserve. I spent that day worrying that the Turkestan Shrike would do a bunk on Wednesday night, especially as I had just had to strike the Buckton record off my list.

Fortunately, news came through on Thurs AM that the Turkestan Shrike was still showing at Bempton, albeit at long range. I was on the road North to Bempton before 08:30. This is a journey I think the car can do on auto pilot, given I visited Bempton Cliffs four times last year as I was keen to see the Black-browed Albatross in England (a list I keep for a bit of fun). But the reality is Bempton Cliffs is the prime English Seabird spectacle, especially as no boat is needed a boat to access the site. This makes it a really enjoyable place for anybody who likes Seabirds.

The Turkestan Shrike had proved to be elusive at times on the previous day, but that was as it was spending a fair bit of time on the adjacent Wandale Farm. A group of Birders had been able to arrange access to the farm for £10 per person where it was showing well at times. I arrived just around 15:00 and the latest update suggested the farm was the best option. The farmer's son was collecting the money and he confirmed it was still in the bushes close to the farm buildings. There were around a dozen Birders watching it at the time from about 20 metres away. I don't think I've ever been that close to any Shrike in the UK or abroad. It was quite unconcerned about us & the others were well behaved & just enjoying the views.
Turkestan Shrike: Well worth the £10 entrance fee, given some of the Birders on the previous day had complained about distant views at 150 metres
Not all the locals were impressed by the new visitor. There were at least ten Tree Sparrows, as well as, a House Sparrow in the same area & they were far from impressed with the Turkestan Shrike turning up.
Tree Sparrow: Although I see Dorset Tree Sparrows every two or three years in October, they have all been Vis Mig individuals & if they perch up it is for no more than one minute, before departing again. Most have only been in flight views
After a couple of hours or so, the Turkestan Shrike flew across the field into the next hedgerow. The farmer's son was happy for us to walk along the normally private field edges to the Bempton Cliffs. Eight minutes late I was there, about a half mile South East of the Staple Newk viewpoint. Right in front of me were some very showy Razorbills. It would have been rude to not take some photos.
Razorbill: You don't get views of Razorbills this close on the Purbeck coastline
I walked a couple of hundred metres towards Staple Newk to see if the people there could see the Black-browed Albatross, as that had been seen sitting on sea earlier in the afternoon. I stopped to talk to a Birder & his wife, who said, that the Black-browed Albatross was sitting on the cliff.
Black-browed Albatross: All very easy compared to the times I kept missing it in 2021
The people at Staple Newk couldn't see the Black-browed Albatross. I passed an update onto RBA & waited for a few people to appear, so that others knew where to look. The temperature was cooling down, so I decided to wander back for another view of the Turkestan Shrike. When I got back to the farm, it was in the hedgerow one field away. I clearly wasn't going to get better views & decided that it was time to start the six hour journey back in the daylight. I still have a lot of photos to process & will post more photos soon.