Sunday 13 October 2019

Levenwick Daurian Shrike

29th September 2019
After heading south from Unst, we dropped in at Levenwick north of Shetland. A Turkestan Shrike had been reported but had apparently nailed and scoffed a Chiffchaff mid-morning and after heading into a thick bush, perhaps for a post-breakfast nap, it hadn't been seen again. We got a tip from a local birder about the garden it had been last seen in and then laser-eyes Rich spotted a shrike-like flash and sure enough, there was the little dude, sitting in a Sycamore in the very same garden. The bird showed well hunting dessert, in the form of bumblebees in the garden and from the nearby fence.

After a bit of research, it seems this bird was a male Daurian Shrike, with grey above the black bandit mask, not white, and a narrow mask, which didn't meet over the bill. Furthermore, the bill had a large amount of pale on the base. Recently, Isabelline Shrike was split into the two recognisable forms, Daurian and Turkestan Shrike. There are other subspecies and it remains to be seen whether it is decided that they are suitably distinct to be classed as good species.

Isabelline Shrike has a place close to my heart as this was the first proper rarity I was involved in finding and identifying (together with my Mum and Dad and Dunc Poyser), at Zennor Head, Cornwall in October 1989. That bird was the first mainland record for Cornwall and blew my 14 year old mind!

Post script.
1st November. Apparently, DNA analysis of a pellet regurgitated by this Shrike has shown it was a Turkestan after all! Back to the drawing board. ...

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