Thursday, February 9, 2017

Charming first

On Tuesday I finished work early and headed back to Goose Lake Drumlins State Natural Area for some exercise and to hopefully catch up with the Northern Shrike. I was unable to spot the shrike initially when I peered out over the landscape. However as I descended the trail into the marsh, the bird suddenly appeared.

Northern Shrike, Goose Lake Drumlins SNA, Dane Co, WI 2/7/2016

Per usual it did not fly when I approached closer beneath the tall tree where it perched. It was difficult to get a good angle on the bird given how high it was. Lighting was low on this balmy and considerably foggy day. I collected a few photos then proceeded on my arduous hike on the ice and slush trails leaving the bird to focus on the ever important task of survival.


After I slogged along another 300 or so feet, I stopped to listen. I picked up some unfamiliar truncated warbling-whistled notes coming from the direction where I left the Northern Shrike. Looking back, the bird was still on the same perch and it was singing! This is a first for me and quite a charming one at that! I referenced my Sibley app which only has call notes available. Nope that was not the sound coming from the bird. Checking Xeno-canto I found a recording of its song. The first notes of this recording are a perfect match for the song I heard.

I wondered if singing confirmed this bird to be a male. Checking Birds of North America Online, I learned it does not. "Both sexes are commonly heard singing in late winter (Feb-Mar), especially on sunny days." The behavior I observed certainly fits with this description other than the sunny part.

The shrike was too distant to obtain a recording of its vocalizations. I am hoping on a return trip to witness this charming behavior again and perhaps obtain a recording at much closer proximity.


On my way back to the car I spotted a round creature delicately balanced in a thin tree. Its shape was reminiscent of a porcupine. However, Dane county is too far south for porcupine, thus leaving raccoon as the likely culprit. Sure enough. I suspect the dog I passed on my way out likely flushed it up the tree. Cute in some regards. Though I could not help but wish for this critter to become the meal of a nearby owl or hawk.

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