Saturday, 18 October 2014

Northern Grey Shrike: first WP record!

After 4 days of extreme wind, everyone seemed to be relieved this morning to start the day under pretty normal weather conditions. The lack of wind obviously meant better birding with a better chance to find out some good birds, an assumption that actually materialised around 9.30am when Jens found a 'Great Grey Shrike' type bird in the upper part of the Lighthouse Valley. Only a handful of birders were present in this valley or at a nearby location at that time and, shortly after the news was released by walkie-talkie, were able to enjoy good views of the shrike. A few photographs were also quickly obtained, which allowed to directly rule out in the field the possibility of it being a Loggerhead Shrike. Soon after its initial discovery, the bird proved very mobile and elusive on the northern slope of the valley, and, sadly, not all birders present on the island arrived in due time to manage decent views of it. Perhaps not more than 2hrs following the initial discovery, the shrike dispappeared and was not subsequently re-observed. No doubts, more searches will be conducted tomorrow in an attempt to relocate it.

Based on direct observations, photographic documents and even sound recordings obtained in the field, the identification of this individual pinpoints towards a Great Grey Shrike of the subspecies borealis, which breeds in Canada and is a rare winter visitor to the States. Interesting details readily observed on the photos are the heavily barred belly and the brownish tone to the head, nape, mantle, cheeks and flanks - a plumage feature not found in other Great Grey Shrike subspecies.

Northern Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor ssp. borealis), 18 October 2014 (Photos courtesy of David Monticelli)
This subspecies has already been elevated to full species level (Lanius borealis) by some taxonomic authorities, and if this view is confirmed in the next years by addditional genetic studies, the bird found today by Jens will represent the first record of that species for the WP.

Additional taxonomic info can be found here:

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