Thursday, January 23, 2014

Shrike That Pose

With the sun shining and temps in the 30s I decided to venture out this past Sunday for a little winter birding near my home in Jefferson County. While most birders are still ogling over the Snowy Owls invading Wisconsin and other states, I seem more delighted to come upon a Northern Shrike these days. They too only visit Wisconsin during the winter months and are an impressive predatory bird to say the least. I've always sought them out in the winter months, but my appreciation of shrikes was further peaked early this winter when a friend shared this cool video of a shrike (note Great Grey Shrike and Northern Shrike are two common names for the same species) and his entertaining story and images of an encounter with a Northern Shrike at Pheasant Branch Conservancy in early December 2013.


For the past few years, a Northern Shrike has been on territory on the north side of County Rd. Y in the Jefferson Marsh State Wildlife Area. When winter birding doldrums hit, seeing this bird always elevates my spirits.  With a little searching I can usually find him on most winter visits to the marsh along with at least one Rough-legged Hawk. So on Sunday, I headed out to the marsh for a little shrike pick-me-up. While not locating him on my first pass, when I came back through the area a distant flock of passerines caught my attention far out in the tamarack bog. In the process of trying to visually ID those birds, I found my buddy perched in the tree line along the dike, higher up than I normally see him. I wasn't expecting to get any photos, but when he started hunting the marsh close to the dike, I ventured out and was able to digiscope some reasonable images. Moreover I got to watch this bird's amazing aerial maneuvering and witness it several times in hover flight. Although he struck the snow several times among the marsh grasses, I never noted him actually catch prey. However in some of my images a single speck of blood on his neck feathers tells me he likely was successful in his hunt at some point. I could have lingered longer, but after forty or so minutes decided I wanted to get out on some trails and get some exercise before I lost my remaining light.



Thus I headed over the Dorothy Carnes Park/ Rose Lake State Natural Area where I ended the day with a short brisk walk, a Great Horned Owl hooting at dusk and a spectacular sunset.




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