Tuesday 6 December 2016

Off-course Isabelline shrike attracts hundreds of birdwatchers

Published 01/11/2016 | 12:41

The Isabelline shrike attracted hundreds of British birdwatchers to an area near South Shields (National Trust Images/Dougie Holden/PA Wire)
The Isabelline shrike attracted hundreds of British birdwatchers to an area near South Shields (National Trust Images/Dougie Holden/PA Wire)

Hundreds of British birdwatchers flocked to see a rare bird blown thousands of miles off course.

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The Isabelline shrike spotted near South Shields, South Tyneside, over the weekend should have been on its annual migration from China or Mongolia to North Africa.

The bird came to rest on land managed by the National Trust north of Souter Lighthouse and its visit delighted assistant ranger Dougie Holder.

Usually only one Isabelline shrike is spotted in the UK every year.

Mr Holden, a keen birdwatcher, said: "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.

"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 about the rare visitor quickly spread and Mr Holden said: "Our shrike really performed for the cameras, entertaining hundreds of birdwatchers over the weekend."

It was thought easterly winds have blown a number of migratory birds off course this year, with additional recent sightings of Isabelline shrikes at Portland, Dorset, and Toe Head, County Cork.

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