Friday, 11 November 2016

The local butcher

Over the past week, perhaps longer, a great grey shrike has taken up residence on Little Woolden Moss at Platt House farm, Glazebury in Greater Manchester. It's been feeding on the local sparrrow population and other small birds, or sometimes dropping into the fields to catch worms or beetles. It was first reported on Monday morning by a local birder, but according to the farmer it has been around for a few days longer than that. Typically it can be very difficult to pin down, mainly because it roams over such a large area, for example I've seen it nearly half a mile from the farm. In four visits so far this week, I reckon I've spent a combined total of about 10.5 hours on site and seen the bird in total for about 15 minutes. Patience is required!

After driving and then walking on Monday, I've cycled from home everyday since. It's only 6 miles on the bike and it's much faster than going in the car, especially early morning on a weekday when the East Lancs is busy and the A574 past Bents and through Glazebury is crawling, nose to tail, and finally you have to park a good 20 minute walk from Platt House Farm. Worth noting at this point that Platt House farm is on Moss Lane, which is private, with no cars allowed.

Great grey shrikes are always cracking, enigmatic birds, but I've never seen one as well as this before so well worth the time and effort. If you have the patience and time to wait it can be confiding, almost oblivious to  your presence, but it can also go missing for two or three hours at a time. This is not only because it roams such a large distance, but also because actually great grey shrikes don't always perch in prominent postions on the top of bushes or bramble as is often supposed, in fact more often than not they are half hidden in a hedge or a tree, as in some of the photos below. I suppose also that if they do catch a small bird, it's such a big meal that they can probably stop hunting for long periods at which time they can become invisible if they are sitting in a hedge

Occasionally it will sit up on wires surveying the ground before dropping down on prey. At these times it's not much interested in what you are doing as long as you don't make any sudden movements or noises. It can be quite difficult to avoid the photo simply being a silhoutte when it's right above you in a bright blue sky.

The prominent pale coverts bar makes this a first winter bird.

It generally shows best in the gardens of Platt House farm and Moss Lodge farm, where it has been hunting the flocks of small birds which include house and tree sparrows, chaffinches, goldfinches and various tits. These next photos were taken at Moss Lodge farm on Tuesday.

It also shows well at times on the aerial of Platt House farm, which is where I first saw it on Monday.

On the walk down Moss Lane on Monday, I spotted these fungus growing in a tree stump. I didn't look too closely and just dismissed them as sulpher tuft, which I have seen a lot of recently. However Ray pointed out that they are actually glistening inkcap.


  1. Hi Colin,
    I'm glad you got to see the shrike - I gave up just after 11 reasoning that it had either moved on, or would be available in a few days - I was freezing!
    I thought it was you - I met you at Houghton Green Pool and P ennington, after a YBW (I'm the one armed one) - but wasn't sure.
    I'm impressed with this site of yours, and now regullarly check it out - especially for those birds I've only seen distantly - like the red throated diver at Penington.
    Keep up the good work,

  2. Brilliant information and photographs Colin! I may go down for a look either today or at the weekend. Are your sightings normally early morning or could it be any time of day?

  3. I would certainly recommend a morning visit, but not too early. I reckon if you arrive there about 9:30am that will be about the best time. Having said that, my views have been so infrequent that it's difficult to be certain what is the best time, I have also seen it well in the afternoon.

  4. Hi Colin, I took a chance yesterday morning ;arrived at about 11am and left at 12.30pm. It was where you said it would be , alternating between the two farms for the full 1.5 hours. Wonderful bird!


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