As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Rare 'butcher bird' spotted at Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve in Camberley

13:33, 12 MAR 2016
UPDATED 13:34, 12 MAR 2016

The Great Grey Shrike, a bird of prey that stores its kills, will have twitchers flocking to Poors Allotment

A Great Grey Shrike, a rare and elusive bird of prey which winters in the UK in small numbers, has been spotted at Surrey Wildlife Trust's Poors Allotment nature reserve near Camberley

A rare bird of prey has been spotted hunting in a Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) nature reserve near Camberley .

The Great Grey Shrike was identified at Poors Allotment by eagle-eyed SWT officer James Herd, who said it was his first sighting of the bird during his seven years working in heathland management.

“It’s an incredibly rare bird and it’s very difficult to get a glimpse, so I was really lucky to witness it,” he said.

Rare natural sightings in Surrey
Not much bigger than a blackbird, the Great Grey Shrike hunts small mammals, lizards and beetles and will even kill other birds as big as greenfinches. It then stores its catch in a bush or tree, to devour later.

“It’s known as the butcher bird, because it has this unusual behaviour of keeping its prey in a makeshift larder,” said Mr Herd “Sometimes, it even impales mammals or birds on a thorn for safekeeping.”

Only 200 Great Grey Shrikes visit the UK every year between October and May, travelling from Europe, Asia and north Africa.

'Vital habitat'
Mr Herd explained that Poors Allotment offers the perfect habitat for the species, a relatively quiet heathland with a good food source and plenty of high perches so the bird can look out for prey.

Historically, this species has also been known to visit the trust’s reserves at Chobham Common and Ash Ranges, he said.

“SWT works hard to preserve this type of heathland habitat, which is vital for these birds,” he added. “If we lost these habitats, the shrike would have nowhere to live in winter.”
The few Great Grey Shrikes wintering in the UK will soon migrate back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.

In the meantime, however, birdwatchers may be lucky enough to see one perched on a fence post or high in a tree on heathland, farmland or in scrub.

SWT has appealed for anyone who spots or photographs this rare bird to record the sighting at www.surreywildlifetrust.org/SBIC


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