Monday, April 11, 2011

I am on Shrike! I am on Shrike!

I have not been really, totally, super, hopping, jumping excited for ages about a bird nesting on our property. We have bluebirds, swallows, doves, killdeer and magpies that all use our trees and grasslands for their nesting sites. So, I guess I have been a bit spoiled and bored with my own personal national geographic happening in my back yard.

BUT today I spotted a pair of rare-ish birds called the loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) who have built their nest in a young cottonwood tree next to my arena. I just about jumped off my horse and did the happy dance right then and there. But my horse would have been confused, so I just watched for a few minutes as the female went to and fro gathering sticks and leaves. She repeatedly flew up to her crook and tucked the pieces into her nest.

Can you see him? They camouflage very well.

I have seen shrikes flying along and perching on our fence line off and on for the past 9 years but never found a nest. For several years I did not observe them at all and missed seeing their flashing wing beats and the black diamond signatures that can be spotted on their outstretched wings.

Here's a closer look. I think they resemble a mocking bird on steroids.

This is the unassuming tree that has been chosen to host the loggerhead shrike family. Shrikes require open grassland habitat with shrubs or trees scattered here and there. I see that our property has finally met this fabulous birds requirements.

There is an ancient decrepit walnut tree next to my arena that I have often considered cutting down but don't. It is always used by many different birds as a perch though out the year and in all kinds of weather. Raptors use this tree like the red-tail hawk, American kestrel and white-shoulder kite. The Corvids love it and crows and magpies sit atop the dead branches. The loggerhead shrikes are no exception. I think the tree will be there for years to come.

Loggerhead shrikes feed on small insects, large insects, lizards and even mice! Shrikes are known to hang their prey on barb wire fences, nails or sharp wood, and come back later to eat the poor victim when it is totally dead. I can't wait to see how this pair hunts on our property. Let the carnage begin!

It's windy up there atop the tree. Hold on...

And here are the lovebirds below.

After lunch I went out and parked where I could take some photos of this pair in action. I have to work to get some better close ups. These photos are with the 300mm zoom lens but I could attempt sitting quietly near their tree to see if they can stand the paparazzi.

Here we have momma loggerhead shrike in her nest (Above). She is hard to see now, and by the time the cottonwood tree fully leafs out her nest will be impossible to view. They made an excellent choice for cover.

And no woman likes a picture taken of her butt. Lady shrikes can give dirty looks too.

And here is the nest from a different angle.

I can't wait to see the babies in a few weeks!! Yippee!

Shrikes are on the decline in the west and all of North America due to the loss of grassland habitat from farming and the ubiquitous urban sprawl. Many conservation groups are trying to create conditions that will allow the recovery of this species.

Shrikes are fierce and bold and aggressive! I think they could be a symbol worthy to represent our country as well as a bald eagle. Rock on my little shrikes! I can't wait to track the progress of your nesting!


Sara said...

I don't know how you did it, but you made birds interesting to me. I read part of that and thought, "Yer so blood thirsty." Please post a pic of the poor victim hanging from a nail.

Julia said...

I see my sarcasm has been taken a little too literally... Ha ha Sara.

IanH said...

Looking forward to the future pictures!

Mountain Woman said...

Congratulations on your babies to be. I must admit I got distracted by all the beautiful greenery in your pictures. Wish we had it here.

Mel said...

It's like you live in a different country with all that green and lushness. Cool bird!

Grand Pooba said...

I first read this post on my phone and for the life of me I couldn't find that damn shrike! That was the hardest Where's Waldo I've ever seen.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

I am so jealous! That bird is on my lifetime wish list.

Doris Sturm said...

That was interesting. I've never heard of that bird before - looks so sweet and innocent to be that fierce. When you said mockingbird on steroids, that explained it all to me because I see a lot of mockingbirds in action and they are afraid of nothing, they even chase after the stray cats! Lovely photos. Thank you!

Doris Sturm said...

Wishing you and your family a super hoppy Easter and blessings from my nest to yours!

basebell6 said...

just logged onto your blog after reading about you guys in parents magazine. new follower here!

Grand Pooba said...

Dude, you should come enter my giveaway for a $50 Target GC. It's for a good cause!

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