7th September 2021
Yesterday I discovered this Woodchat Shrike showing the lack of a white patch at the base of primaries and questioned it’s identification as a possible Balearic Shrike. The general consensus is that it’s the third Scilly and fortieth British record of the subspecies, BALEARIC WOODCHAT SHRIKE, if accepted.
Yesterday early evening, after the fog had given way to the warm sunshine, I checked out the Maypole area and it was alive with flycatchers with a total of 8 Pied and 11 Spotted Flycatcher. There were also single Redstart, Whinchat, Sparrowhawk, 2 Tree Pipit and 2 Whitethroat present. I was still working and had thirty minutes to kill when I made my ways down to Watermill. Just before I kicked Maypole, I spoke to Martin Goodey on the mobile and the last thing he said to me ‘Let me know if you get a shrike’ I was like ‘As if mate’ I continued down the track but decided to visit Helvear instead and perched on top of a Hawthorn out in the sun, was a bloody Woodchat Shrike! It was always distant and proved very mobile but on the wings, I noticed the lack of white on the base of the primaries and made me question it’s identification. I know that this can be a good feature for Balearic Woodchat Shrike but I wasn’t sure about the moult of Woodchat Shrike. I also found my fourth Wryneck in an equal number of days on the track by the large pines nearby I put the sighting of the shrike as a female ‘type’ Woodchat Shrike on the WhatsApp group. I did call Martin first then text him to let him know that I’ve got a Woodchat Shrike appearing to show no white primary patch but he didn’t answer. I could hear the helicopter coming in and raced to the airport. However, the airport was shut and my guests were instead taken to Tresco instead. Why wasn’t I told this? I walked the airfield very quickly where there were 5 Whinchat and over 40 Wheatear before I made my ways to the quay to meet the guests.
Good numbers of both Pied and Spotted Flycatcher in the Maypole area
In the last two weeks, the first Sparrowhawks of the autumn have turned up and last week I had two together. This individual was over Maypole.
This is the best I could do of the shrike as it was always distant but you can still see that there is no white primary patch at the base of the primaries.
Before I saw the flycatchers and shrike, in the thick fog, the Western Bonelli’s Warbler was still vocal and showing well in the pines behind the cadet hut, Garrison
There were also up to 10 Sedge Warbler in the gloom at Lower Moors
3 Tree Pipit were in the field opposite the castle obs window
And small numbers of Willow Warbler
So this morning, after searching through info but none the wiser, on Balearic Shrike last night on the net, I was back at Helvear. I needed to get flight shots and after a while, I relocated the shrike favoring Hawthorns but again it played hard to get. After getting a few records shots, I gave up on it after twenty minutes. I put the news out that it was still present and also ‘Of note, Woodchat appears to lack white primary patch Balearic or moulting Woodchat? What do others think?
The record shots of the 1st summer male Woodchat/Balearic Shrike
Later on in the day, Scott Reid managed to get some flight shots of the shrike and the identification was still being questioned by others. It was not until after 18.00 that I was back up at Helvear. That is after having a look at the Western Bonelli’s Warbler on the Garrison still behind the cadet hut and a peep at Ian Ralf’s Red-backed Shrike he found earlier on at the junction to Longstones. Got some good scope views of the Woodchat Shrike, thanks to Bobby ‘Dazzler’ Dawson but it never came near enough and it was record shots again. However, with a bit of field work, I got good views at close range but the light by now was almost gone making it hard work for photography. Some of the top notch birders, from looking at Scott’s BOC flight shots, were thinking that it was looking ideal for Balearic Shrike and it was decided in putting it out on the group as showing features of Balearic Shrike. Later in the evening, with great work from Scott, Andy Holden and others, and the general consensus is that it’s a BALERAIC WOODCHAT SHRIKE! If accepted it will be the first British autumn record as all the other sighting have been in spring/summer months and also the first record since one at Wykeham Forest, Sawdon, May 2015. Hopefully it will still be on show tomorrow for others to connect and observe this potently split.
All three top images taken of the 1st summer male BALEARIC WOODCHAT SHRIKE were taken by Scott Reid I identified the first Scilly record of Balearic Woodchat Shrike when I saw footage of a Woodchat Shrike on St Agnes in April, 1999. A lot easier to identify in the spring than in the autumn. The only one that I’ve seen before the Helvear individual, was a male in May, 2011 on St Martins.
The Western Bonelli’s Warbler was still on the Garrison
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