Shrikeing it Lucky on Cow Down

Today I finally managed to find time for a drive over to Cow Down which is alongside the Ridgeway in West Berkshire to look for a Great Grey Shrike that has been there for a while. I have been there once before, also looking for a Shrike. On that occasion it wasn’t found. As on most of my recent trips Pete came as well. We took a cross-country route so as to avoid the pleasures of the A34 looking in at Great Shefford on the way. Just a couple of Little Egrets and a few Swans were seen on the River Lambourn. Arriving at the car park after seeing singing Corn Buntings on the climb up from West Ilsey village we were greeted with the sound of singing Skylarks. Several Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits were seen and heard and Pete found a Reed Bunting in the adjacent field. After admiring the view over the vale towards After admiring the view over the vale towards Harwell and Didcot we set of west along the Ridgeway where we saw several Red Kites, the first of at least four Kestrels, a couple of Red-legged Partridges and a flock of Yellowhammers. Approaching the scrub at Cow Down we were pleasantly surprised when a Short-eared Owl flew out of the rough grass. A very light coloured bird which gave great views as it hunted the gallops.The best part of the next hour was spent, unsuccessfully scanning the bushes for the Shrike. Along with more Corn buntings, Yellowhammers and Mipits we had plenty more views of the Owl, Pete found a Wheatear and a few Linnets while I managed two Chaffinches and a Blackbird. As is often the way we had drifted away from each other, I was a hundred or so yards ahead when I picked up the Shrike in flight on the far side of the bushes. Of course Pete didn’t see it. Fortunately, and after another twenty minutes or so I picked it up again and this time it started perching on the Hawthorns before dropping down for prey. We saw it catch and eat a worm before it moved off again.

A second SEO appeared and we watched them both hunting. One also spent some time perched fairly close to where we were standing.

We also saw one Buzzard and two Grey Partridges. Calling time we headed back to the car adding Lapwing, Herring and Black-headed Gulls to the species total. This had now reached the heady total of twenty-two. Quality not Quantity.

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2 responses to “Shrikeing it Lucky on Cow Down

  1. Richard Williams

    Well done Malcolm and thank you as always for sharing with us. I keep meaning to get up there from the office but work is so damn intensive at the moment. Maybe early Friday morning when I’m not in a suit?!

    • The drive there took around thirty minutes cross country, a bit quicker M4 A34 if the traffic is kind. Then it is a few minutes walk to the best viewing point. Then all you have to do is wait for the bird to show, five minutes or maybe hours, who knows. If it doesn’t rain too much you will be okay in a suit anmd office shoes. No 4×4’s on the Oxfordshire Ridgeway so it is easy walking. Lots of grass and no ruts.
      I so miss all the pressure of my old job, oh no actually I don’t. Funny that.

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