It's the last day of the year and I'd better get something written down here of recent trips out. Aside from dipping on the parrot crossbills at Budby Common (Notts) - that was fun, standing looking at a puddle for about 6 hours and seeing no sign of the birds - I have had better luck with their two-barred relatives, a velvet scoter and also a great grey shrike which has decided to (hopefully) over-winter down the road from home.
The two-barred crossbills caught my attention, as there was little else around locally, and they were in a part of the Wyre Forest I'd not explored before. With the help of other interested folks, I was soon peering through a scope at a fine male crossbill, as it fed on one of the cones. Moments later I had it in view through my lens, and despite the distance and low light, bagged some record shots of it.
The next bird to tempt me was a male velvet scoter, seen over in Leicestershire. I had managed to get shots of a female earlier in the year, but the male is much more of a striking looking bird. A birder wandering away from the reservoir kindly explained where he'd seen the scoter, and it meant a long(ish) walk around the edge to the other side to view.
Alas after driving over in sunny conditions, the weather had deteriorated and the water was grey and choppy. Even so, seeing the scoter so close up was a treat.
Bramblings have arrived in good numbers again, and whilst I was hoping to get some half decent shots of those, I had a look around the immediate area and found a small cul-de-sac with flocks of redwings feasting on some berries in a hedge.
Great Grey Shrike
The great grey shrike was reported some days back and I watched it from the roadside one afternoon, followed by an early start to watch from dawn. I've seen several of them now and had very good views of one at Napton some years back. They're flighty subjects if approached, but as they cover (usually) quite a large area, if you position yourself within range, hide and hope, you might get a good view. After taking a long route to the area, to deliberately avoid the bird, I set up behind a thorn bush and waited.
The bird seemed to favour the fields near the road, but had a larder within one of the thorn bushes, to which it would return to, every so often. It wasn't bothered by buzzards, herons or kestrels, but the magpies liked to mob it.
Aside from trips to local reserves, I've been kept in by the weather of late, so anything caught in sunshine is a bonus. Still no sign of any shorties yet, though they often don't appear until February, so still time yet.