Working with an endangered species necessarily involves spending a lot of time not finding what you’re looking for. Nevertheless, once you know where and how to look, searches can become surprisingly fruitful. This year, I have been fortunate enough to be able to quietly observe Loggerhead Shrikes in their natural habitat almost every day. But I’ve spent hundreds of hours searching fruitlessly for shrikes as well and even when you know where to look, it is sometimes extremely difficult to find the birds! Loggerhead Shrike surveys require a combination of keen eyes, patience, and a healthy dose of luck!
Allow me to illustrate with an example. In April, the start of the 2015 field season, biologist Stephanie Casutt spotted a shrike on a certain site in Carden. Throughout May, I visited the site faithfully every 2-7 days, spending at least 20 minutes at the site each time, scanning for the shrike. I visited the site seven times without ever seeing this elusive bird, and I was ready to give up. However, in early May I began receiving regular reports from volunteer Ginny Moore that she was seeing this shrike foraging from powerlines in the area. Thankfully, she would stop and observe the bird whenever she could and sent me detailed notes on her field observations. She even got a photograph of the bird on May 14, while I continued to visit the site without finding the bird. Finally, in desperation, I showed up with a stool on May 29 and settled in for what I thought would be a long wait. I was determined to see this shrike with my own eyes! Ten minutes later, I was looking at Ginny’s shrike for the first time. I’ve been visiting ever since, and sometimes I still can’t find the bird when I show up; but without Ginny’s reports, I may never have found this bird at all, as I would probably have decided Stephanie’s sighting was most likely that of a bird just passing through early in the season.
Another crucial volunteer sighting this year, this time a very lucky sighting reported by Janice Melendez on June 29, led to my discovery of the sixth confirmed breeding pair in the Carden region. Thanks to her report, I’ve been following this pair ever since, and I’m happy to confirm that they successfully bred and are now foraging actively with two healthy fledglings. Janice was even able to snap this photo, allowing us to read the unique band combination that was assigned to this individual, a wild-caught bird that was banded in Carden in 2013.
As a non-profit organization, Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery and other programs benefit extensively from volunteer support. Every season, bird lovers make invaluable contributions to our survey efforts through the Adopt-A-Site program and by reporting casual observations of Loggerhead Shrikes. Meanwhile, our partnerships with private landowners and local nature conservancies such as the Couchiching Nature Conservancy allow us to collect crucial data on many of the properties upon which breeding Loggerhead Shrikes are found. Species conservation is most effectively implemented through group-efforts and partnerships involving a diversity of groups and individuals — without these valuable networks, I would just be wandering aimlessly along roadsides day in and day out!
A very special thank you to Ginny Moore, Janice Melendez, Dan Bone, and our many other faithful volunteers — your time, care and effort is greatly appreciated!