Thursday 5 February 2015

Great Grey Shrike at Iping Common

Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor

Yesterday morning I joined BC Sussex members Neil, Mark and Garry and MDT members John, Mike and Andy at Heyshott escarpment for another conservation work party. A roaring fire consumed much wood and we left the area with a lot more suitable habitat for the primulas and hence the endangered Duke of Burgundy butterfly. See

Afterwards I met Mark and Neil at Iping common to search for the Great Grey Shrike which has been reported there for the past few weeks. Mark spotted a Stonechat and a small flock of Goldcrests were feeding among gorse bushes by the main path. While I was attempting to photograph these skittish birds, Mark spotted a Wood Mouse which had been hung up in a small tree a hundred yards from the path. This is typical behaviour of a Great Grey Shrike which stores its prey in a ‘larder’ to be consumed later. Neil then joined us and we soon spotted the bird flying into the area. It perched on the top of several trees, scanning the area for prey. We watched it dive down and take a small bird to the top of a tree and pluck it. I saw feathers blowing away.
In the 18th century its common name was Greater Butcher-bird. It kills its vertebrate prey by hitting it on the skull with its hooked beak.
Nigel with fire-meister Andy.
new territory created for the Duke of Burgundy
Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor

Great Grey Shrike with small bird
Great Grey Shrike with small bird
Wood Mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus, left by Great Grey Shrik

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