Friday, June 19, 2009

Loggerhead Shrike!

For some of you--especially in the southern half of the U.S.--the Loggerhead Shrike may be a bird you see regularly, but for me it was definitely a first on my Minnesota List! (not a lifer though, I actually saw my lifer Loggerhead Shrike in California just a few short months ago).

Here's a bit of information from the Minnesota DNR's Nongame Wildlife website regarding the Loggerhead Shrike:

"They were once found in grasslands around the state, except in the Arrowhead region. Recent surveys have found fewer than 30 nests in southern and western Minnesota, with a small concentration in Dakota, Rice, and Goodhue counties. Population loss is likely due to many factors--loss of grassland habitats to cropland and housing, forest encroachment into grasslands, increased use of pesticides, and changes in farming practices with larger fields and fewer trees, shrubs, and fences."

On last Sunday's birding field trip, John Hockema mentioned that a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes had been seen regularly behind Lowe's. "You mean the Lowe's out by 48th Street?" I asked, because I couldn't believe they were this close to where I live. John confirmed that was the place and told me specifically that the birds had been seen less than 1/2 mile east of Lowe's on County 101. (Of course, I knew exactly where that was because that road is sometimes my shortcut home from Quarry Hill Nature Center.)

So on Monday afternoon, I left home a little bit early to pick up Mr. Johnson from work in the hopes that I might be lucky enough to spot this shrike. I had gone no more than a quarter mile onto County 101 and there it was--up on the utility line. Holy Crap!! A Loggerhead Shrike!! (do you ever do that--talk to yourself while you're driving around and looking at birds? I need one of those "birder" bumper stickers so people who pass me on the road know I'm a birder and not just some kooky old woman driving slow and talking to herself!)
I pulled out my little Canon Power Shot and started snapping away because I was sure the bird would fly as the car rolled closer.

Amazingly enough, the bird just stayed right there on the line and I was able to drive right up in front of it!
"Whatchoo lookin' at?"

Gosh, what a handsome bird!

Finally, as I was turning the car around, the bird flew across the road to some trees. I couldn't resist stopping to take one more picture.

With the rate of development arount Rochester, I'm not sure how much longer this habitat will be available for this bird. This area is prime for residential or commercial development and I think it's only a matter of time before the fences are pulled, the trees are cut down and more prime bird and wildlife habitat is gone forever.


Deb said...

Congratulations! I don't think I've ever seen one; if I did it was probably in South Dakota. I like their relative the Northern shrike.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Whoot!! Good for you!
That cool bird would be a lifer for me.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Wow how wonderful Ruthie. LOSH is a rare bird here in INdiana. It is always big news when someone sees one. I am so happy for you. And pictures too!!

KGMom said...

How great for you with your bird sighting.
But your comment about lose of habitat makes me so sad. I can't bear the willy-nilly land development that we have all over the U.S. Too many places being built, too much loss of habitat for our feathered and furry friends. Will we stop before it's too late?

Gaelyn said...

What a cool sighting. Sure hope all the habitat isn't destroyed for this beautiful bird.

dAwN said...

yippee...congrats on the lifer..and a pretty bird indeed.
Hope to meet you soon when we do the Birders who blog, tweet and Chirp outing!

cindy said...

Ruthie, great find. It's amazing what people will find in their own backyards if they only listen and look...and know Chris and John. Two great guys!

Cindy said...

Ruthie, I forgot to mention, the Hockema brothers are probably heading up to try to see the Western Wood-Pewee as I write this.

Kelly said... lucky duck! This would be a total life bird for me. Great job!

troutbirder said...

Wow! I used to see them duck hunting in the fall but never knew which kind it was at the time. I also can't believe there are so few here in the southeast. Sad.

Jayne said...

How cool Ruthie!!! I've never seen one and would also be talking to myself as I drove...lolol!

Ruth said...

I saw the Northern Shrike several times this winter, but I don't know if I could tell the two shrikes apart on the field. Loggerheads are very rare and are considered endangered in Ontario.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Deb,
I've seen the Northern Shrike much more often (even in my backyard!) but only in the winter months.

Thanks Lynne. If you get down Rochester way this summer, I can show you where this bird hangs out.

Thanks Lisa. I was sure excited too.

Hi Donna,
I don't have much hopes for this habitat escaping development for too much longer. The property right across the road is for sale and I noticed the other night that they had mowed the entire pasture--probably killing the nests of meadowlarks and dickcissels that I'd seen hanging around there last week.

Hi Gaelyn, me too, but I get the feeling the developers and realtors around here care much about the birds.

Thanks Dawn. I'm looking forward to Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp field trip -- August right?

Thanks Cindy. Have you had the chance to go birding with John & Chris before? Those guys are really good. Did you happen to see the Blue Grosbeak in Mankato last week?

Thanks Kelly. I never I thought I'd get the chance to see this bird in Minnesota.

Hi Troutbirder,
I was so surprised to see it right behind Lowe's -- just like John told us!

Oh good Jayne, I'm glad it's not just me! ;-)

Hi Ruth,
They do look pretty similar. It's size, shape, and head pattern accoring to my big Sibley guide. But here in Minnesota, I went strictly by range map because I know the Northern Shrike is a winter bird for us. From the range map, it looks like the Loggerhead is extremely rare east of the Mississippi in the northern tier of states and southern provinces.

Red said...

I certainly slow down and sometimes brake for raptors :) The little ones however I don't because I figure I'd never be able to identify them without crashing or causing a crash.

As for talking to myself... well, that goes beyond birding, but I am also known to talk to the birds.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Heidi,
Very good to know it's not just me that does that! And now that I think of it, I've talked to a few birds too! :-)