I hear that there’s a Great Grey Shrike on Emsworthy Mire on Dartmoor. I’ve never been a ‘birder’ and I really dislike rarity fetishism but I think it would be fun to attempt some photographs of a different bird for a change. I’m exhausted with Robins and Blue Tits for the moment. I’m sure my enthusiasm for them will return, but for now, my wildlife palate is a little jaded.
I’ve seen a Great Grey Shrike before, in Cambridge, on a disappointingly grey day. I didn’t get close. My photograph of it was so poor I didn’t even blog about the experience, despite it being an interesting bird.
The Devon Birds website mentions that it’s still there so I set off. As I approach I can see a group of birders on a tor with telescopes trained on something and I wander up to meet them. They point out a tiny white spot in a bush in the far distance. That’s it.
We can see three men in bush hats with long lenses crawling through the gorse in a line attempting to get close to it. They look utterly ridiculous. I’m about to join them. As they approach, a pair of feisty Pied Wagtails attack the Shrike and it flies far off down to the bottom of the hill. At least six of us follow it. The four in front get a photograph and then it flies off back up to the top of the hill again. I still haven’t got a decent photo of it. I certainly don’t want to disturb it or make it fly. I have no intention of turning myself into a bird botherer.
My companions in khaki can’t stand the thought of walking back up the hill, but I’m determined. I’m going to take my time and see if I can get close to it. I have all day. After all, what’s better than being out in fresh air? A charming man called Dave is there too. He’s kind enough to encourage me and we hatch a cunning plan to get close it it. He lets me go in front and I get some startlingly close views.
Isn’t it spectacular?
I decide to film my attempt to get close to it for my new YouTube video channel, Head for Nature. I’d like everyone to spend a little more time with wildlife and nature. Even just being outside with trees and birds singing for just two hours a week is good for your emotional and physical health. That’s scientific evidence for you.
Here’s how I got on:
Aren’t they spectacular birds?
It was painstaking and time-consuming, but I made it; I got closer and closer to it until I could get some startling shots.
Many of the bird photographers I meet are willing to chase birds, disturb them, play their songs on mobile phones and generally interfere with their lives. Personally I don’t think any like on social media or comment on a YouTube video is worth disturbing a wild creature for. That’s the exact opposite of why I promote the natural world with my blog, which is so it doesn’t get disturbed or destroyed.
It took me an hour to get close and I spent a large part of that sitting in a gorse bush.
What do you think? Was it worth it?
I’ve set up a new YouTube channel so I can feature some of my wildlife adventures and muse on the joys of the natural world and the benefits of getting out and experiencing it. I’d love it if you subscribed, got notifications and liked and shared my videos so more people can experience them. This is the first time anyone following my blog will have seen me or heard me in the twelve years I’ve been writing it. I can only hope it’s a pleasant surprise.
The more people who get out and experience the natural world, the better for us and for nature. Head for Nature!