Category Archives: 20) Shrikes to Babblers

Extraordinary Grey Shrike

Make a Fuss!

Shrike Eemshaven 18 oktober 2015


Sometimes you have to ūüôā

This bird, trapped in the Netherlands on 18th October (that woul be last month) I think is extra- ordinary for this far west. Fits gallaie/homeyeri  profile. Least all I can say is I have never come across one.

Of course it may still be around. Somewhere in the region of the land bordering the English Channel

Why fuss?

So much white! The extra white running along the edges of the secondaries. That’s the main feature for me. You would need to see/ read the text and illustrations in the Challenge : WINTER to see what I am on about.

No further gen. Thanks to Mark Grantham who first flagged up a similar bird in Suffolk¬†last month. And to Martin Brandsma who gained permission to share this one. In haste…

Shrike Eemshaven 18 oktober 2015

Is it a British First?

Waxham, Norfolk mid-October 2015

Detected as a little more than interesting by Mark Grantham. There are several aspects about the plumage meriting discussion but they would not raise eyebrows apart from the SECONDARIES!

So rather than labour the point- read the chapter on Great Grey  Shrikes in the Challenge Series: WINTER and have a look at the wing on this bird.

The immediate questions for me are:

Is it some kind of British first?

Is it still in the area?


Great Grey Shrike a (1 of 1)

Great Grey Shrike b (1 of 1)


shrike3 shrike4 shrike12


Turkestan Shrikes – phoenicuroides


MG. Not to be missed! Most of the flurry of first winter ‘isabelline Shrikes’ in Britain/ NW Europe this autumn have been stand-out 1cy Daurian Shrikes. – isabellinus. So when you see stunning images of the¬†other¬†taxa – which is likely¬†to get more ID debate – don’t miss it! I hope these images taken by¬†Mike¬†help¬†illustrate¬†the differences between 1cy Daurian¬†and Turkestan (and how easy peasy some of the latter can be).

Mike Watson

“Dear Martin

Here are a couple of Turkestan Shrikes from October/November 2015 in Oman. We usually see more phoenicuroides than isabellinus (using current id thinking that is). I have seen isabellinus more often in the north of Oman and in Bahrain (maybe wintering birds?) but phoenicuroides (on its way further south in east Africa) is usually seen throughout Oman in late October/early November.

Take care, Mike”

Turkestan Shrike Mike Watson 3 phoenicuroides (1 of 1)

Above: 1cy Turkestan Shrike (phoenicuroides type?), Oct/ Nov 2015. Mike Watson


Turkestan Shrike Mike Watson 2 phoenicuroides (1 of 1)

Above: 1cy Turkestan Shrike (karelini type?), Nov 2014, Mike Watson


Check out the two photos above. Do they represent examples of full-on young phoenicuroides (loads rufous above, fantastic barring btw) and then the bird which is very greyish above and white below- nice karelini features Lots of ID bullet points to wrestle with in Challenge Series: AUTUMN. Thanks Mike!


Turkestan Shrike Mike Watson 1 phoenicuroides (1 of 1)

Above: 1cy Turkestan Shrike Oct/Nov 2014. Mike Watson


Turkestan Shrike Mike Watson 4 phoenicuroides (1 of 1)

Above: 1cy Turkestan Shrike. Oct /Nov 2015. Mike Watson


Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike Mike Watson 1 (1 of 1)

Above.  Daurian Shrike prob 2cy+ female (thanks to Nils van Duivendijk), Nov 2014. Mike Watson


Great Grey Shrike – melanopterus

Dark and Scaly

We included the latin name¬†‘melanopterus in the Challenge series: WINTER. Doing any chapter on the sweep of Great Grey Shrikes across in the ‘northern’ zone seemed impossible. Even looking through specimens at Tring was more perplexing than revealing. Thankfully a little light emerged as I kept looking into it – much aided by Andy Stoddart and others.¬†This paper was very helpful from the equally helpful Martin Brandsma’s .

There is variation with the use of¬†melanopterus as a description of Great Grey Shrike plumage. Generally it references (north) western end, no white at base of secondaries etc.¬†The darkest birds, like this one- well you can see the characters – are similar to¬†Ray’s illustration and do stand out. It was in Suffolk and is well worth analysing as we continue to learn the grey shrikes.

Thanks very much to  Robert Wilton and fellow Suffolk birders, Rene Baptiste (finder), Justin Lansdell (research), Andrew  Easton (most of photos) and Tim Oakes who bring this one to BF.



“Hi Martin,

I thought you may be interested in some pictures of a Great Grey Shrike that we had in Lowestoft, Suffolk in October. Whilst I didn’t see it in the field (other than in flight!) we believe that it could be ‘melanopterus’. Out of the 8 or 9 GGS that we have had this Autumn this is the only one that was atypical from the usual brighter individuals we get.

After speaking with Justin Landsdell and Andrew Easton the following features seem to present in all the photographs:

1. Matt slate grey upperparts that never look pale or shining silvery (this was the same in the field in different light)
2. Lack of obvious supercilium above the mask
3. Well scalloped underparts set against a grubby off white background
4. Lack of anything other than trace of a white secondary patch

Sadly the outer tail feather in the first photo is not spread to show extent of black like the penultimate tail feather is,

Best wishes

Rob Wilton, Lowestoft”


Photo above by Tim Oakes


Photo above by Rene Baptiste


image3 image4

IMG_0003Photos above by Andrew Easton


‘Siberian’ Northern Shrike

November¬†is the month…

Terry Townshend and MG:

The scoop? It’s the peak time of year: For what? For¬†¬†‘Siberian’ Northern Shrike¬†to reach (north) west Europe. The closest to me (MG) has reached western Norway and possibly the Netherlands. Oof!

There are key features laid out in the Challenge Series: WINTER. There is a beware :). The fresh birds can look quite brownish and are a bit more obvious. When fresh.¬†However they wear! And at any kind of distance it would be easy for a ‘sibiricus’ to look rather greyish and generic and Great Grey Shrikes-ish and get passed off…

Thanks to our man in Beijing here’s a young ‘Siberian’ Northern Shrike photographed a couple of days ago.

Hi Martin,

All photos taken at Lingshan, Beijing’s highest mountain, about 110km west of Tiananmen Square at about 1,800m asl. by Terry Townshend.¬†¬†

Key features to check?

Plumage tones, head pattern, underparts plumage, wing details (love those!) and tail pattern. All visible thanks to Terry T.


Northern Shrike 3 sibiricus Lingshan Mountain 9th Nov 2015 TT 1 (1 of 1)Northern Shrike 2 sibiricus Lingshan Mountain 9th Nov 2015 TT 1 (1 of 1)Northern Shrike 6 sibiricus Lingshan Mountain 9th Nov 2015 TT 1 (1 of 1)Northern Shrike c sibiricus Lingshan Mountain 9th nov oct 2015 TT 1 (1 of 1)


Balearic Woodchat Shrike – badius

A New Feature?

by Martin Garner

I was very pleased to catch up with the Balearic Woodchat Shrike at Wykeham, North Yorkshire earlier this week. As ever when vagrants get studied closely it raised a question for me. Is there another feature of badius not yet described?

Here’s the boy. Balearic Woodchat Shrike was, at one stage considered possibly not identifiable with certainty by BBRC. A thorough review by Brian Small and Grahame Walbridge (read the paper:¬†Balearic Woodchat Shrike paper¬†) found and affirmed key characters. Some are visible here on this 1st summer male like the rather thick, slightly bulbous bill, the lack of white at the base of the primaries and possibly pertinent the narrow black band on the forehead (though bearing in mind this will get broader in adult plumage. But there is another¬†feature…

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey


Critical in separating Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus) from nominate senator is the amount of white in the tail. (Read the paper Eastern Woodchat Shrike paper)

What if the same applies to badius versus senator? I found no reference to this in a quick search of the key literature.

The Wykeham bird appears to have moulted most of its tail (apart from possibly the outermost t6) to black adult type feathers and yet it also appears to lack the prominent white at the base of some of the outer tail feathers. The outermost tail feathers t6 is obscured and may be a juvenile feather, but I would have expected to see at least some white obvious at the bases of say t5 and t4 if the pattern had been the same as nominate senator (BWP says bases of t2-t5 are white with almost half the feather on t4 being white and much of base of t5 also white). Instead the tail looks essentially all dark.

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Brett Richards

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Brett Richards

The tail looks black and does not appear to be a retained juvenile tail- apart from perhaps the outermost feather t6?  But then in flight you can see the more extensive grey over the uppertail coverts with small white rump patch and all dark-looking tail (T6 is mostly hidden under t5).

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Dave Aitken

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Dave Aitken

Ideally I would need to review specimens and see more inflight spread tails of various Woodchat taxa. What do you think? Go ahead have your say...

Compare with this bird recently on the Isles of Scilly-  a male nominate senator taken by Martin Goodey.

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

Eastern Woodchat- niloticus

and to complete the set- the even more extensive white at the base of the tail feathers found in niloticus– very rare in NW Europe with no British records… yet!

Notice also the BIG white area over rump and uppertial coverts of niloticus.

male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

tail of male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

tail of male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

Moulting Daurian Shrike ID in Autumn

Older Females

Martin Garner and Andrew Lassey

Texel, Netherlands and Kent, UK. October 2014

Autumn 2014 brought¬†a fine collection of ‘red-tailed shrikes’. Several more obvious¬†first winter Daurians (isabellinus) headlined. A trickier looking first winter Turkestan (phoenicuroides) in Cornwall gave rise to lively debate. The Dutch trapped a stunning looking first winter Turkestan Shrike at Castricum that seemed to tick all the boxes. And there were more…

including this¬†bird….

female 'red-tailed shrike' (probably 2nd calendar year), Texel, Netherlands, 11th October 2014. Maurits Martens

female ‘red-tailed shrike’ (probably 2nd calendar year), Texel, Netherlands, 11th October 2014. Maurits Martens

In the Challenges Series chapter on Daurian and Isabelline Shrike we covered the expected¬†first winters and adults. Fresh plumaged ¬†(fully moulted)¬†adult female Daurian Shrikes have been well recorded in e.g. the UK in recent years. We know them, don’t we?

Head scratching

This Texel bird stepped outside familiar¬†boxes. It’s a worn and moutling female, probably in its 2nd calendar year (so a year and ++ half old). Which makes things a little trickier. Indeed the presenting¬†appearance of cold greyish tones above, white looking below, apparently contrasting dark mask quickly gave rise to speculation that it could be ¬†an example of the rarer Turkestan- keen Dutch birders woke-up!

Have another look at these excellent photos thanks to Maurits and Charles Martens



Rumination and discussion followed. While not definitive, the balance of opinion lies with the Texel (and Kent) bird being a worn and moulting female Daurian (isabellineus). With very grateful thanks to Nils van Duivendijk, Andrew Lassey, Grahame Walbridge, Arend Wassink.

Moult and Migration timing

As this bird is worn and moutling, it is helpful to look further at movement. Oscar Campbell updated understandings of Isabelline and Daurian Shrike movements in the U.A.E. as follows:

The status of Isabelline Shrike taxa in the United Arab Emirates by Oscar Campbell

“My data show that there is a clear distinction between phoenicuroides and isabellinus in terms of their occurrence in the UAE. The former [Turkestan- phoenicuroides] is almost exclusively a passage migrant, mainly between mid September and mid October, and again from early March until early May, with stragglers until mid May or even later.

Although not recorded by me, very small numbers of phoenicuroides are seen in the UAE in August, at least in some years, and mainly in the last week of the month (average of 3.6 bird-days each August, during 2007‚Äď11 in the country as a whole; T. Pedersen pers. comm.).

In contrast, [Daurian- ] isabellinus is generally present only from October to March, with very few records outside this period (and in August, only three bird-days in total in the five years 2007‚Äď11). It is often widespread in favoured habitats (fodder fields, desert edge and urban parks) throughout the winter, with many individuals departing by mid February and replaced by a strong wave of passage migrants that peaks in the first half of March.”

British Birds 105 ‚ÄĘ July 2012 ‚ÄĘ 417‚Äď42

In contrast to some literature (but not all), the considerable experience of A.W. and Nils van D. is that (on average, with overlap?) Daurian moult later than Turkestan. Thus:

Turkestan Shrike often complete moult before the autumn.

Daurian Shrike similarly complete or not complete before the autumn.

This maybe reflect the (much later) breeding season of Daurian and could also correspond with Oscar Campbell’s observation of movement and ¬†through the U.A.E.


Andrew Lassey who has loads of experience with the Red-tailed¬†Shrikes¬†(and an understanding of ‘photo-artefacts’) brough as apposite comment on the images¬†of the Texel bird:

“Hi Martin,

Thank you for letting me see the series of images.

Though many females and even more 1st winter ‚ÄėRed-tails‚Äô can be a problem I eventually came to the opinion that this bird is not too bad. Initially I thought I was seeing mixed features but finally came to the view that everything points to Daurian. I believe the opinion is that the bird is a 2nd CY female and that seems reasonable. Looking at a few features I would comment as follows:

Tail ‚Äď largely brown which is typical of most females, however the base of the tail and upper tail coverts are more cinnamon than red and this is consistent with most Daurian.

Supercilium ‚Äď hardly present, Turkestan usually has a good whitish super, whereas Daurian is less well marked (buffish), this feature (or lack of) supports Daurian.

Crown ‚Äď some images show a slight rufous or brownish tinge which might be seen as a Turkestan feature, it is however not unusual for Daurians to show this.

Mask ‚Äď several images show it to be fairly prominent though it does look fairly slim and I believe the shape (lack of downturn and flairing at the rear) to be more typical of Daurian but not necessarily
ruling out Turkestan.

Upper parts ‚Äď look pretty well fine for Daurian.

Underparts ‚Äď Initially puzzled by the whitish appearance on most of the images which would be odd for Daurian and more typical of Turkestan. I wonder if the underparts in reality were¬†less strikingly white and the crescent markings to be rufous/orange (or whatever) which supports Daurian as apposed to the colder brown of Turkestan.

I can see no signs of any Red-back features though most female hybrids are near impossible to tell from the genuine article. Intergrades between Daurian and Turkestan do occur but they are so rare as to hardly be an issue in extralimital birds.

Not the easiest individual but several features strongly suggest Daurian and I can’t find much to positively support Turkestan!

All the best,¬†Andrew”

and then it went to Worth, Kent

A week late (16th October) Steve Ashton got some lovely close-ups. See Steve Ashton’s website– lots of¬†smart photos! It’s the same bird.

It’s a sunny day- so beware! On plumage it starts to look warmer. The¬†crescents aren’t so blackish, the forehead scales help ageing (more 2cy than adult) , the underparts are not really pure white and the white supercilium is un-white-¬†¬†not striking as on easy Turkestan. There’s ¬†a bit too much buffishness wash going on in cheeks and underparts… maybe (while heavily emphasising the great struggle of interpreting photos! Have a look:




and if you are following ūüôā

Some of the others from autumn 2014

Turkestan Shrike Р apparent 1cy at Castricum, Netherlands in November

Turkestan Shrike-  apparent 1cy at Pendeen, Cornwall in November

Daurian Shrike- 1cy at Spurn, East Yorkshire in October

and this very interesting one found by John Edwards was on Mallorca on 30th October. It’s a an interesting looking one… More discoveries ahead!

lanius 1