The 2018 eastern loggerhead shrike field season is coming to an end on the Napanee Limestone Plains. The year has been a resounding success! Over the course of five months, we watched seven wild pairs nest and raise young and released 57 conservation reared shrikes. The field season has made a mark on us; we both have got the scars to prove it. We’ve been fortunate to witness many amazing sights including more shrikes in a single place than we will likely see for the rest of our lives.
Here are some of this year’s most memorable moments:
Crystal’s Favourite Shrike Moment
Fieldwork is all about being at the right place at the right time. While monitoring a recently fledged loggerhead shrike nest, I was having trouble finding any of the fledglings. Generally, when this happens, it’s best to find a hidden spot to hunker down for 10 minutes or so. Fledglings are noisy, so they tend to give themselves away quickly. Suddenly, I hear loud squawks and see a brown thrasher tumble out of a nearby bush. When I investigated, I found the brown thrasher pinning another bird down. I couldn’t quite make out what bird it was until the brown thrasher flew away. Surprise! It was one of the shrike fledglings. Fortunately, the fledgling made it out unscathed, and likely learned a valuable lesson about brown thrashers.
Kayla’s Favourite Shrike Moment
While all our conservation-reared loggerhead shrikes receive bands before being released, wild loggerhead shrikes receive bands during the nesting season. Shrikes are banded by placing a live mouse in a cage within the round trap. The shrikes go in the trap and step on a lever to close the door. (Watch a video detailing trapping for banding here.) I trapped a pair on one of our sites with the Lead Biologist, Hazel Wheeler. The pair were very interested in the mice but couldn’t quite figure out how to get in the trap. They kept going around the trap, but not at the side with the door. This is a prime example of the “Shrike Effect”, an extension of Murphy’s law, where anything that can go wrong will!
Crystal’s Most “Dangerous” Animal Encounter
Of course, anyone adventuring in the outdoors must be prepared for wildlife encounters of all kind. Typically, we are more concerned with large animals, such as black bears. However, even small mammals can be prone to attack. Case in point: red squirrels WILL chase you away. The video below show the “vicious attack” of a red squirrel when I got a bit too close to its nest.
Kayla’s Most “Dangerous” Animal Encounter
My most “dangerous” wildlife encounter started off as one of my favourite moments. I was in one of the pastures, monitoring a known shrike family when a lone cow wandered over to me. I was sitting on a large rock facing the direction of the shrike’s nest tree when the cow began licking my backpack and then proceeded to lick my arm and eventually the inside of my ear. She was friendly and even let me pet her. However, when I began walking away, she followed me and I didn’t think anything of it until she tried to mount me. This sent me tumbling to the ground. I was unscathed, but when I got up the cow looked very confused at me. I yelled at her and she sauntered away. She enjoyed my company a little too much.
Favourite non-Shrike bird sightings:
– Crystal Kelly & Kayla Villeda