Jul 13 2012 By Alan Hayes
BIRDWATCHERS rushed to Lake Farm Country Park to try to catch a glimpse of a very rare bird.
The male Red Backed Shrike flew in on Wednesday (11), closely followed by a group of about seven 'twitchers', keen to add this rare sighting to their list.
It was first spotted by Hayes birdwatcher Peter Naylor.
And among their ranks was Wendy Marks - 43 years old that day and a keen bird watcher - who said it had been the perfect birthday present.
By Thursday, the word had spread on the efficient birdwatcher grapevine, and about 20 birdwatchers could be seen scanning the treetops. Among them were some of the top British 'twitchers', according to Wendy.
On Friday morning the bird was back again and 'showing really well', according to Wendy, a transport manager of Pump Lane, Hayes.
She explained the reason for the rare visit: although Red Backed Shrikes come to Britain in the summer from their home in Africa, they do not normally venture so far south.
She said a Spoonbill had been spotted at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes in recent days, and one possibility for the southern drift could be the terrible weather Britain has been experiencing.
The Red-backed Shrike is a carnivorous passerine bird about the size of a Starling. Its a migratory bird which eats large insects, small birds, frogs, rodents and lizards. Its also known as the 'butcher bird' as it is known to hang its prey from thorns, and then returns to eat them later.
Breeds in some parts of Europe and western Asia and winters in tropical Africa. It has been known to sporadically breed in Scotland and Wales, and in 2011 the RSPB announced two pairs had succesfully raised chicks in a secret location in Dartmoor. In recent years its numbers have sharply declined.
Meanwhile, Wendy has some grainy but precious pictures, and some great birthday memories.
"I went home and had a bottle of wine," she said. "I was very happy."