Monday, March 9, 2015

Loggerhead Shrike at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge

We headed out to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge for what we thought would be a final bon voyage to the Snow and Ross's Geese before they head back north to their Arctic breeding grounds. We did in fact see hundreds, maybe thousands of white geese taking flight in the evening, and they did not return while we were there. On the other hand we saw a great many beautiful birds of other kinds. It was a nice day.

The greatest thrill of the day for me was the sight that met me as we pulled up in the parking area at the far end of the auto loop. A pair of gray birds flitted past, and one of them was clearly a mockingbird. The other seemed similar yet different. It landed right in front of me, and I recognized it as a Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus). I got a pair of shots before it took off again.
It's not that it is a truly rare bird or anything like that, but it's only the second time I've seen one with camera in hand, and last time the picture was very fuzzy. The Loggerhead Shrike is related to the songbirds, but behaves like a small raptor, eating large bugs, amphibians, small reptiles and mammals, and even other small birds. According to the Cornell Ornithology site, their population has been in a steep decline, perhaps due to ingestion of pesticides in their prey. I felt lucky to have one so close yesterday.

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