On my drive to the airport on the way back from Spain a couple of days ago I spotted the shrike on a bush by the side of the road. One of the fondest memories of my early years was to spot the shrike on its post on the way to or from the beach during our summer holidays. Shrikes will sit on it’s favoured almond tree, bush or telegraph post wire for hours watching for prey. Shrikes are a family of predatory perching birds, with hooked bills similar to those of raptors. It’s mask and white eyebrow give the Iberian Grey shrike a fierce look. Grey shrikes mostly feed on large insects but they also hunt lizards, mice and birds. They often cache surplus prey on spines and thorns of bushes. I remember coming across my first mole cricked as an impaled prey of a grey shrike.
In a recent trip to my hometown in Spain I visited my childhood park a few times. I spent many hours birdwatching there in my teenage years, before the arrival of the Collared Dove, now extremely common. In my last visit, I watched a Firecrest feeding atop the pine trees: hovering briefly in front of bunches of pine needles in search of minuscule insects and spiders. I drew the bird with its little crest erect, face on, to highlight how colourful they look in comparison with Goldcrests, the black eye stripe flanked by white highlighting its dark eyes. Watercolour, inkpen and pencil on wacom tablet.
I enjoyed some wonderfully close sights of Hawfinches in Spain a few months ago. They fed on the ground of a pine woodland and then in loose flocks on the seeds of elms by the river Guadiana. Their stern look and massive bill contrasts with their delicate calls, similar to the Robin’s ‘tic, tic!’ and soft whistles. I drew the Hawfinch with pencil and watercolour.