Wednesday, November 4, 2009

28th-29th Oct: Home Counties highlights

Tehe rest of my week in the UK had a couple of avian highlights - first being the Brown Shrike (Britain's 7th record) at Staines, just a very short distance from Heathrow Airport (which lead to an after dinner conversation hypothesizing abut if it was feasible that a bird could be "jumbo jet-assisted"!). I was interested to see the Shrike because it was a) a british tick, b)not far off my route and c) because I wanted to check out what a "western" cristatus looks like compared with the more eastern birds we get in Bkk.

The answer to this last point is "really quite different!" much more whitish underneath, and no buff-washed flanks, thus the underparts contrast much more with the upperparts. Something else I noticed was that this bird was silent when I saw it, and the few birders I have asked have said that they have not heard it call.  This is interesting as I hear Brown Shrikes all the time in Bkk and I often pick them up on call, and Phil Round's Birds of the Bangkok Area states that "newly arrived migrants are especially vocal" and that "Brown Shrikes are strongly territorial on winter quarters".  If the Staines Brown Shrike is planning to overwinter (as some birders in the UK suggest) it seems strange that it would be calling.

My final day's birding was spent with James Lowen, freshly returned from 3 years in Argentina, and Chris Collins, freshly returned from the Philippines and who has spent much of the last year in France/Guyana/Antarctica/Spitzbergen/Arctic Russia and on a boat steaming between New Zealand and Japan. The novelty of going birding in the UK was too much for us and we managed to find nothing otherthan an odd, perhaps "eastern-type" chifchaff and dip Zitting Cisticola and Glossy Ibis during a grand tour of Kent.

EDIT - James has now posted some chiffy pix for discussion here

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