More antibiotics and short visits to Cley and Buckenham via Sea Palling.
Ingham/Sea Palling - Both Whooper and Bewick Swans. 3 Cranes south of Horsey Mill.
Buckenham - the fewest Wigeon we've ever seen in December, still in their hundreds though. Large groups of Canada geese and 6 White-fronted Geese. Our first Ruff of the month. The gates to the mill are now heavily padlocked. Another blow for the disabled and or elderly , birder. Must apply to Strumpshaw for a permit. Do they give you a padlock key?
Cley - Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent along Beach Road in a flock of Black-bellied. 3 Avocets and a few Ruff on Bishop's Pool from Cley Centre.
Sunday December 14
Looking for December ticks, I'd asked Pam to alert me if a Long-tailed Tit flock came to the feeders. She duly did so and I went to the kitchen armed with my indoor binocs. The nearest feeding station is in the fig tree about 5 metres from the kitchen window. Whilst admiring the Tits, I noticed a very pale sparrow-sized bird with a pale supercilium and lores in the tree amongst the feeders. I pointed it out to Pam just as it flew down to the low Acer palmatum beneath. She said Shrike as I called 'with a very red tail'. It posed for half a minute whilst Pam dashed off to get her camera. It then flew down the garden, flashing its bright tail and paler rump, landing on a small metal pergola. Despite my inward enteaties, it then flew off west, BEFORE Pam returned with her camera. Blast.
The Helm and newer Collins books are kept in the car. Pam checked with the indoor Collins and declared it to be a first winter Red-backed Shrike which I then tweeted. I was still puzzled and doubtful but hardly dared to believe otherwise.
Steve later phoned, asking if it was a Brown Shrike. No, definitely not, not with that red tail. I think it was Keith who first verbalised Isabelline Shrike which made a lot of sense. The Helm book really nailed it for me as did a web search, Pam is even more pessimistic that we should have such a rarity in the back garden without a photo to prove it.
The rusty red tail is the defining ID, as is the pale supercilium, lores and overall plain, pale brown upper parts and creamy underparts with faint streaking around the neck and breast sides. Isabelline Shrike, probably of the Daurian race, the same species as the one we saw at Stiffkey on October 16.
What a garden bird. Shame it was such a short stayer.
I talked to J and D about it when we met for coffee and they sent me a submission form as it is a BBRC bird. I shall bite the bullet and submit the record. Although I'm certain, who's going to believe me? Fingers crossed.