Saturday, March 20, 2021

A Butcher Bird in the North-Forty.

     This week has been rough. Day light savings messed up our perfect, sleeps through the night baby. Which messed up us. Which made work very challenging this week. The ripple affect just progressed day-by-day. By Friday, I was toast. I spent my day off (cleaning) and trying to catch a nap. Birding, oddly, was just not my primary goal.

    So today, I got a decent night of sleep, was looking forward to some leisurely birding, and then I saw the notification about a Northern Shrike, just 10 minutes from home. I usually don't get along with chasing birds, so I clenched my jaw for the 907,5674,999th time this week and thought to myself, "just wait, make sure it is sticking around before you run off to chase a dream." So I enjoyed my breakfast with my family and then I saw that it was still being seen. Time to go.

    After parking, a kid comes running up, asking if I was looking for the Northern Shrike. I said I was. I could tell this kid was serious, I was happy to help him and his grownup get to the North Forty, the part of the field where it was being seen. 

    We walked into the trail that takes you back to the Return-a-Gift Pond, and then he put up his bins, and yelled "shrike!" And there it was, the Northern Shrike. Damn, he reminded me of such an important rule: LOOK AT EVERYTHING. I saw that bird and initially thought to myself, Mockingbird, but nope, it was a shrike, giving a mockingbird a run for its money. And then I also thought to myself, what a fantastic young person this was. He had a lot of cool bird experiences and I owe him, for helping to get me a life bird, let alone a life bird here in Brooklyn. I wish him many more good birds!

The Northern Shrike is a bird of prey disguised as a song bird.
This bird looks so, innocent, right?
Just wait till it turns its head...

Also known, affectionately(?), as the butcher bird. That hooked bill is used to behead birds, rodents, grasshoppers, small reptiles... they are known for using twigs and barbed wire as a place to impale its prey and help hold it tight while it, butchers it into small bite-able bits and even better to store it there for later - ain't that cute?
This bird, showing that light scalloping on its belly tells us this is an immature bird. Does that make this one an apprentice butcherbird?

This bird is truly carnivorous, that little hook on their bill is their killing tool, it can help to quickly kill their prey. 
These birds are also truly northern, before this, I'd only seen loggerhead shrike, similar to these, but denizens of the south and as their name implies, they have thick necks and heads.
They nest in the arctic and in the winter live in the Northern parts of NYS and other northern and mountainous states of the lower 48. So it's a real treat to see one here, in Brooklyn. 

I decided that I had great looks at the shrike, and wanted to keep enjoying the day. I decided to head over the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The West Pond was full of snow geese, usually they are on the east pond or the surrounding marshy islands. So to see so many close, and flying overhead was a real treat.
Also, that yawn!!!

Good birds, good weather, and finally, a good night of sleep-- oh AND good pizza for lunch. That is a banner day!

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