Greetings from Carden, Ontario!

The Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program is back in action, and even though it got off to a slow start this season (so much rain!), things are finally starting to come together. The month has been busy, as I’m all by myself until my field partner joins me in June. As you may or may not know, I was the Carden field assistant in 2018 for the shrike program and have been given the amazing opportunity to come back as the Carden shrike biologist this year.

Loggerhead shrike perched on a tree mid-hunt

My first day in Carden, I found 3 shrikes. All of which were hunting, perching, flying, the usual shrike activities. This was great and I felt that the season was off to a great start (first day and already finding shrikes, woohoo!) and then it rained. And rained. And rained some more. The Carden Alvar plains were unusually quiet during the first week and a half, only a few brown thrashers and eastern meadowlarks could be heard. I would be out walking through wet, muddy fields and would hear those brave souls singing away in the cold and damp weather. This was also around the time that my rubber boots cracked and took in a whole boot full of water. Of course, I was in the middle of a water-logged field and had to walk all the way back to my car to change my shoes. My beginner’s luck of the season had run out, I could not find any more shrikes other than the original three.

I went back to monitor a pair on one of the sites the following week, when suddenly a third shrike appeared! This same site had a trio in 2018 as well and caused quite the conundrum for me and the field biologist. Fortunately, I was able to find the nest this year and can now confirm the breeding pair. Unfortunately, I have not seen the single shrike on site since the first encounter. This shrike is likely male and may have found a new territory. Hopefully he can find a mate, and we can find the nest!

First sighting of Princess before she nested

The last few days I was graced with a stroke of good luck and was able to find two more nests, and another established territory! You often see a shrike before you hear them, but I often hear a nest before I see it. The parents each play a vital role in the nesting stage, the female incubates the eggs while the male goes out to find prey. He feeds her while she’s on the nest, and you almost always hear her begging as soon as he is within sight with food. If you are quick enough, and in the right place, you can catch the male leaving the nest tree. With one nest, we have a very demanding female that begs incessantly. Even to the point of leaving the nest to follow the male and beg in a different tree for him to feed her, only to go back to the nest to beg to be fed again. She is a returning shrike that was banded in 2018, and successfully nested on the same site. I’ve aptly named her ‘princess’, incidentally she is the most tended to female of the pairs so far… and I can see why.

I’m hoping that the rain slows down, and that summer is on its way! So far, it’s great to see three active breeding pairs with high hopes of finding more in the coming weeks!

-Mandy Shepherd

Carden Shrike Biologist – Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program