It’s amazing how flexible is the perception of time. This season has gone by so slowly and yet so quickly, and all at the same time! How is that possible? I suppose it has to do with settling into a steady routine, doing the same tasks every day for months on end (slow), and also seeing and experiencing new things every single one of those days (fast). It’s certainly not for everyone, but I love it.

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Mid-August on the Carden Plains (Turnbull Ranch)

               On August 31, we released the last batch of captive-raised Loggerhead Shrike of the 2015 season. The final twenty birds released by Hazel Wheeler (Species Recovery Biologist for WPC), Charles Guthrie (Toronto Zoo), Ginny Moore (Couchiching Nature Conservancy), Hailey Fitzgerald (Volunteer Extraordinaire) and myself, Leanne Grieves (Carden Field Biologist for WPC), brought our total number of captive releases in Carden this year to forty-five. I couldn’t help but feel happiness while watching them take their first flights into freedom, excitement as they began to realize how big their world had grown, worry and sadness knowing that not all of them will make it through their first year.

               Despite the fact that not all of these shrikes will survive, the captive-breeding program is making important contributions to the wild population in Ontario. I confirmed seven captive returns in the Carden region this season, including three birds fitted with geolocators (all three were recovered!), and four that paired and bred successfully with wild birds (including one wily female bearing a geolocator). I confirmed seven breeding pairs this season that produced seventeen fledglings. With so few pairs, it was a huge relief that there were no nest failures or depredations. In addition to the seven pairs, there were at least thirteen single males on territories.

               Excluding this year’s fledglings and captive releases then, that brings the Carden population to about twenty-seven birds in 2015. You don’t have to be a scientist to realize this is a very small number for a breeding population; however, if you do just a little math, you can see that about 25% of the population this year was made up of captive returns—and that’s no small contribution!

               Despite the precarious funding situation faced by pretty much all environmental and conservation organizations in Canada these days, Wildlife Preservation Canada is committed to continuing the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike captive breeding program, in partnership with the Toronto Zoo, Mountsberg Raptor Centre, and African Lion Safari, for at least another five years. If you’re able, please consider donating here  so that we can continue to aid Species At Risk in Canada.

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Wild Loggerhead Shrike in Carden (2015)

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Release cage at Turnbull Ranch

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First taste of freedom!

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Note the antennae of radiotransmitter visible on this bird

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Catching shrike for pre-release checkups

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Giving medicine

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Banding

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From left to right: Nathalie Paquette, Jessica Steiner, Hazel Wheeler

             As for me, it’s time for some data entry… But not before I show you a really weird caterpillar:

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