Rare shrike is a 'dream' sighting for Souter ranger

Shrike at Souter and the Leas
Published : 01 Nov 2016 Last update : 14 Nov 2016

The chance sighting of a small bird usually seen in Mongolia was a 'dream come true' for one of our rangers at Souter Lighthouse and the Leas.

Our assistant ranger Dougie Holden spotted the Isabelline shrike on Friday on land cared for by the conservation charity about two miles north of Souter Lighthouse. 

Dougie, a keen birdwatcher, says: ‘We get a lot of migratory birds flying over the lighthouse, but I didn’t expect to see the shrike – it was a dream come true.’ 

Blown off course

It is thought that the bird was blown far off course during its annual migration from Mongolia and China to Africa. 

The British Trust for Ornithology estimates that on average just one of these rare visitors is seen in Britain every year.

Butcher bird

Dougie says: ‘The shrike was roughly the size of a starling, thick-set with a heavy bill. 

‘They’re called the ‘butcher bird’ because they spear shrews and lizards on thorns. But with what looks like a black mask across its head, our shrike looked more like a burglar.’

News quickly spread that the rare bird had been spotted and, by Friday afternoon, over 70 birdwatchers had arrived trying to catch a glimpse of the shrike. 

Dougie adds: ‘Our shrike really performed for the cameras, entertaining hundreds of birdwatchers over the weekend.’

Surveys

The National Trust works closely with the Whitburn bird ringing group to survey migrant birds on the Tyne & Wear estate. 

This year volunteers on the Leas have already spotted large numbers of Redwing and Goldcrest, which migrate to the north-east from Scandinavia and Russia.