Sunday 8 November 2020

Red-backed Shrike Mega Twitch

Rare Bird Alert. A Red-backed Shrike had turned up on BC's Sunshine Coast. A MEGA find if there ever was one. 
The shrike normally breeds in Europe and Western Asia and winters in tropical Africa. Twitchers began frantically checking ferry schedules and booking hotel rooms. I wasn't so quick to react. I thought about it for a full three days before I got my act together and decided to make the six hour, two ferry trip up the Sunshine Coast and beyond to the bustling metropolis of Powell River. It would be a 12-14 hour day trip. Prior to leaving I decided to hedge my bets and stay overnight. That would give a me a better chance in case I dipped on my arrival. I am glad I did.

Twitchers wait for some action.

Arriving at midday I arrived in Powell River and headed for the stakeout (see above) where a number of other birders had been patiently waiting for several hours. There was a bitter cold with blowing off the Salish Sea. I wore three layers and I was still shivering. Eventually three hours later and as the light began to fail the shrike finally appeared. I quickly captured some so-so video footage on my Nikon P1000 bridge camera. 

The camera has excellent 4K video qualities and has a 24mm-3000mm which proved ideal for this particular twitch where we couldn't approach too closely.

Nikon P1000 

The P1000 is not a replacement for a DSLR or a quality mirrorless but not everybody wants to go that route. I then switched to my D500 and 200mm-500mm F5.6 Nikon zoom for some crisper shots by which time the light had dropped and I forced me to shoot at ISO 1000 to get enough shutter speed. The light was terrible but photographers have to work with whatever is available. Thankfully the rain held off.


The shrike flew to the ground

and picked up an earthworm

then scolded me.
Nikon D500 and 200mm-500mm

I stayed at the historic The Old Courthouse Inn which is unique in every way and well worth visiting 
even if it's only for breakfast. I had a restful stay after my long day's drive and headed out next morning 
to try my luck for the shrike again. There were already birders from Nanaimo when I arrived. It wasn't long before I had to peel off two of my three layers, a complete change in weather from the day before. This time the bird was in the same garden where it had taken up residence. The owners of the house were very gracious allowing an ever growing numbers of birders to keep watching the bird, one twitcher flew in from the Okanagan another from Ontario.
This time I managed to get a few frames off without flushing the bird while the newly arriving birders eagerly searched for the bird. By noon there were no more sightings which meant more than a few returned home without seeing the bird. Those who stayed were luckier next morning.

A few days later I procrastinated again and missed the the Prairie Warbler in Kelowna so I may have to get my act together or just not worry about chasing every bird that's reported. 

Very rare birds are termed Mega


  "It's never a good idea to procrastinate"
                  John Gordon
                           BC Canada 


1 comment:

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