As the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Carden Biologist, my work in mid-April was off to a chilly start with the fields still covered with snow and surrounding lakes perpetually frozen. The ice storm didn’t help much either. It took an extra couple of weeks but spring has finally sprung and now the field season has truly begun. The start of the season involves contacting landowners and catching up with the shrikes. We want to see which birds have returned, which territories they hold, and if they have formed pairs. The warmer weather not only brought the return of the loggerhead shrikes from their overwintering grounds but also my field assistant, Taylor, some much-appreciated company.
The first encounter with any focal species at the beginning of a season is an unforgettable moment. The many hours spent preparing by pouring over maps, talking with landowners, and searching in their preferred habitat is simply forgotten as you take in this beautiful and captivating animal. It is an equally satisfying and awe-inspiring moment where your hard work is instantly rewarded. However, after we collect ourselves from the excitement, it is straight to business. With our spotting scope out we try to see if the bird is banded with unique colour bands. These bands allow us to identify individual birds by using a combination of different colours. We also watch the bird’s behaviour, to see if they have a mate or are starting to build a nest, and if there are any predators nearby.
Loggerhead shrike live in short grassland areas with scattered trees and shrubs. Here in the Carden Township, it is largely in The Carden Plain, which is recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The Carden Plain is not only home to the loggerhead shrike but also a number of other grassland bird species due to the unique alvar habitat of shallow soil and exposed limestone. Due to this unique habitat, we have been fortunate to see a number of other bird species including Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Eastern Towhees, Eastern Meadowlarks, Song Sparrows, Savannah Sparrow, Upland Sandpipers, Brown Thrashers, and American Kestrels just to name a few.
As the field season is now underway and we are starting to get into a routine, my first important takeaway lesson after contacting landowners involved is that landowner support is at the very heart of the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program, and we couldn’t do it without them. As they say, “it takes a village to raise a child”, I think it too takes a village to help conserve an endangered bird!
I am looking forward to the weather continuing to warm and hopefully bringing more Loggerhead Shrike sightings with it.