Parkgate - today 10/03/2014

After an uneventful walk/watch at Parkgate today, I returned to the Old Baths car park and noticed some birds which I didn't recognize, in the horse field, amongst a flock of starlings -  grey head and tail, brown wings and black eyeline. The only match in my RSPB "bible" is the Red Backed Shrike, could that be possible in this area?

  • From your description, these may have been Fieldfares. Along with Redwings, these winter visitors initially feed on berries when they arrive in the autumn. As the winter progresses, the berries are eaten and the birds turn to feed on grubs and insects on the ground. Both species especially like the horse field at the Old Baths where you saw them. Make the most of them, they will soon be leaving for their breeding areas in Scandinavia.

  • Spot on, Hugh. In addition, a red-backed shrike in March is virtually unheard of, and even less likely to be in the northwest. They spend the winter in Africa and are seen only as a scarce summer migrant in the UK, rarely before May, and usually restricted to the East and South coasts. Behaviour is also a clue, with shrikes tending to perch in trees and bushes, whilst fieldfares are thrushes who spend a lot of time on the ground. As Hugh said, enjoy them whilst they're here, as they'll be leaving us soon.

  • Hugh/Dan, definitely not Redwings, they have been and gone so too, have a large flock of Fieldfares. I suppose it could be a new flock. I thought it was too good to be true.

  • Hugh/Dan, you were right of course. I saw them again today, much closer this time, on Heswall golf course and again with the starlings. They've been missing since Monday, perhaps they just do long weekends! I bet you just love us newbies, don't you? What!  I'm the only one?

    Well, if I didn't post, I'd never learn.