Bike or Hike Shrike

Obviously one of the concerns of local patch birding is how to treat news if one finds a rare bird? Can we manage parking and access, how far might people wish to travel in order to see a scarce visitor and how many birdwatchers might descend on this relatively quiet spot?

Male red-backed shrike (J Carter)
Of course, in lockdown these questions are to some extent moot - we would not wish to encourage anyone to get in a car in order to twitch a regional or national rarity. So while the small band of Aldcliffe patch birders have continued to search for noteworthy birds we have been, uncharacteristically,  hoping not to discover anything that might draw the crowds.

However, when news broke yesterday afternoon that a male red-backed shrike had been discovered along the Dawson Bank hedgerow, a small gaggle of West Lancaster birders suddenly found the need to take their daily exercise (as per government guidelines, after all).

Personally, I've spent time on the patch pretty much every day since I was furloughed but I'd given Saturday a miss due to the glorious weather and the likely hordes of walkers, cyclists etc, as a result of the lack of coherent messaging about staying at home... I believe the phrase may be Sod's law!

Local birders observing social distancing (P Crooks)
News reached the grapevine just before 4pm (huge thanks to finder Joe Murphy) and despite my immediate reservations about dropping everything (decorating, as it happens) I soon found myself leaping on my bike and heading towards the patch, which is literally just minutes from home. Despite the bird having disappeared from view, and news of its last whereabouts being vague, within less than half an hour of deciding to leave the house I was stood watching this most dazzling of continental overshoots. In less than an hour of news breaking, most of the local patchers were on site enjoying good views of the bird.

Red-backed shrike is a long-overdue first the Aldcliffe area and is represents the third species of shrike to be seen here.
A great grey shrike spent some time in Freeman's Wood back in December 1991 and a stunning woodchat shrike was in almost the same area (and remarkably close in date) on 8/9 May 2014.    

Jon