We have a dog pen area underneath our deck which attracts a few birds and squirrels foraging on the dropped seeds and suets from the feeders above. We also get a skunk there periodically so I always take a look at the area before letting the dog out. This afternoon as I took Penny down for a pee, I noticed a robin-sized bird on the ground in the pen, and as the dog lunged to get me moving, I realized, “That’s a shrike!” I got the dog back upstairs, grabbed the camera, and took some shots — although the fencing and window pane were causing the autofocus to go crazy. Then it flew up to the apple tree.
I ran upstairs and both Mary and I watched the Northern Shrike perch, as they do, on the highest branch of the tree. I got a couple of shots as the bird flew off to another perch, came back for a bit, actively hunting. At that time of day, we normally have a parade of chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers but nothing was moving. I saw one chickadee fly up to the apple tree, not too far from the shrike, and sized up the situation fast and was out of there. I saw no other birds from 4:30 until dark — it will be interesting to see what’s up in the morning.
This is the first Northern Shrike we have ever seen here in the 12 years we’ve been here. In fact, as I have noted several times before, I had never seen a Northern Shrike — it was a goal for this winter. I finally found one, about quarter-mile off, that a friend had previously spotted. I’ve seen that bird twice since. Now, to have one about ten feet away was pretty exciting. At one point, it was looking right at me through the glass and opened its beak — like “Feed me.” There was a side of me that thought about how hungry he/she might be but I’d rather not lose any of our birds. Now, the four or five red squirrels that live under that apple tree and raid our feeders — “Go Shrike!”