Steppe Shrike

in Sheffield?!

Here’s a series of photos of the Great Grey Shrike at Blacka Hill, taken yesterday (5th November). I hope better photos are obtained particularly of the upperwing pattern and tail rump plumage in greater resolution than I have managed. Beautiful morning nevertheless  with 200 plus Pinkfeet over, a dozen distant Redpolls threatening to contain a Mealy and about 15 Red Deer seen including up to 5 large stags with full horns- magic!

I am aware of variation in excubitor Great Grey Shrike especially in regard to white in the wings and tail. Note most information on homeyeri (is based on adults. What is normal appearance of first winter homeyeri is a KEY QUESTION?

The features of homereyi Great Grey Shrike on this bird are as follows:

1) Extensive white in wing. Usually obvious at rest at base of primaries and secondaries. In flight appeared as one large block of white, though hard to discern exact extent. Photos taken in effort to capture this appears to show white on the outer secondaries of similar length the white at base of inner primaries. This would be exceptional (never?) found in excubitor. In example of excubitor with white at base of secondaries , there is a obvious ‘step’ between white at base of primaries and (less) white at base of secondaries. Ideally I want better views/ photos be sure of the upperwing pattern.

2) Tail Pattern. I was only able to determine that T6 (the outermost tail feather) appeared entirely white in the field. I had to rely on opportunity photo of spread tail to see the pattern. Tail appears to show homeyeri type pattern. Specifically on the photo (remember that the inner webs of feathers are hidden under the next inner feather),  T6 (outermost) all white; T5 possibly all white certainly outer web is. T4- the first black mark moving inward on the tail seems to be on the outer web of this feather. White is at the base of T6, T5 and probably? T4 as well. This is only my interpretation- better photos/ views needed!

Softer features which can be found on excubitor but which are at least indicative/ intriguing!

3) head pattern with obvious flesh coloured base to lower mandible and pale (grey) lores (giving ‘pallidirostris impression’) and brown stained forehead. This combination at least not typical for first winter excubitor

4) Rump and uppertail coverts. Clearly paler than upperpart grey. Not blazing white either – indeed hard to get a feel for in different light conditions. How pure white does it have to be for homeyeri? Perhaps the more questionable feature on this bird. How do these characters appear on first winter homeyeri?

5) Primary projection on homeyeri averages slightly longer wings. This bird lacked the very short (50% of tertials) primary projection of some excubitor and was more like 70ish % of tertials.

6) White scapular fringe broad and diffuse, bleeding into grey of mid scapulars

7) Upperpart tone had the feel of being  a little paler more pearly than excubitor but subjective and no direct comparison

Have a look at the photos. These are of a first winter bird. Crucial to compare like (first winters) with like. Not adult excubitor with this first winter bird. With at least 3 records in Finland and 1 in Sweden – any one got the photos and data on these – be much appreciated!

All photos (apart from heavy cropping) straight from camera- no manipulation.

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About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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2 Responses to Steppe Shrike

  1. Pingback: homeyeri Great Grey Shrike | Birding Frontiers

  2. Pingback: Still patchin’… | Sheffield Wildlife

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