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The Quest For The Butcherbird: Part 5

I bring updates from the shrike family and other hide visitors, and reflect on the past week of photos and wildlife observations.

Day 7 - Friday 18th July

The next three days I am trying to juice as much time as possible in the hide. I have neglected to say in past posts that I am here on holiday with my parents and that, outside of time spent watching shrikes, we have usually been visiting friends or places in the afternoon. The shrikes luckily seem to be hunting in the morning and conserving energy in the afternoon, so that's how my days roll.

The whole family is showing well today. The male chick is eating a slug - or rather, has eaten a slug and is now regurgitating it and re-eating it. He likes to do this, as I saw him also do this yesterday. Maybe it's a bit too ambitious a meal for him. His sister meanwhile sits calmly at the far end of the branch, minding her own business. I wouldn't say she's the runt, but I haven't seen her eat anywhere near as much as the male, and he often goes bullying her for food when he thinks she has something (see top photo; and below).

There are lots of other birds in front of, and behind, the hide as well, and a little after dawn (around 7am) is the best time to see them. I can hear a turtle dove in the next field over, and can see quite a few icterine warblers around today. The hoopoes tease me constantly, mainly with tantalisingly distant passes, although one, like yesterday, actually lands in the shrike tree for a split second then leaps up in the air and flaps off again. I do have a few commoner species stick around, usually for no longer than a couple of photos like this green woodpecker, but it's interesting to see the diversity that this one tree is attracting as a look-out post.

Slug, as I've now taken to call the little male shrike fledgling, is pushing his sister a little too far, so she flies off after her mum. This makes Slug slightly tetchy, as he prances around on the branch, flapping his wings and clicking. It's something that all chicks do to get food, but clearly at his mature stage he still likes to be the centre of attention.

When I'm back at sunset, as I expected I can only see the adults. The dad is having a well-earned meal of his own - a huge elephant hawkmoth. Chicks must be in bed, and there's a storm brewing.

Day 8 - Saturday 19th July

No need for an alarm - the sound of rain on the roof and wind beating the poplars does the trick. The day's a write-off until the rain has cleared, and even then the shrikes are unlikely to be up to much hunting. Like birds of prey, they hunker down (probably in the nettle bush) when it rains.

That unfortunately means the entire day, until a short while before sunset. Our summer characters - a hoopoe, yellowhammer and just the male shrike - are bedraggled and soaked to the skin. I can see at a distance that my buffetted hide has knocked to the side, but I'll sort it in the morning.

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