Posts Tagged 'Northern Shrike'

Easter at Iona

End of semester projects and tests kept me from writing a trip report last weekend but I did manage to get in some decent birding so I thought I’d talk about what I got up to before discussing this weekends outings. On Saturday I managed to get out to Iona Beach near the airport.

Iona was incredibly windy on Saturday but the weather was otherwise quite nice. At one point I almost had my tripod and scope blown over by a strong gust but luckily I managed to grab it just in time. The wind also made digiscoping very difficult as my camera had trouble focusing through all the atmospheric turbulence. Despite this I find something enjoyable about birding in adverse conditions; I think a good bird or a difficult ID is a little more special when you’ve been through hell to get it.

At the pond by the parking lot Tree and Violet-green Swallows were having rough time of it in the wind. They would frequently come down to rest on the railing of the boardwalk and many of them appeared to be breathing quite heavily. The wind was a bit of a blessing for the observer as the swallows were practically stationary when flying into the wind; this allowed for some excellent looks of the birds in flight.

Over by the washrooms I managed to locate a group of four Savannah Sparrows taking shelter in the brush.

Just past the gate that heads out onto the North Arm Jetty a Northern Shrike was flying from bush top to bush top. The bird would barely rest on a high perch for a few seconds before lifting off and flying, seemingly in slow motion due to the wind, to the next one.

Not long after spotting the shrike an American Tree Sparrow made a brief appearance from the depths of the nearby brush. After patiently observing the area for a quarter of an hour I was able to discern at least two birds but more have been reported by other birders.

On the northern bank of the North Arm of the Fraser River I managed to pick out these two Eurasian Widgeon:

I had a great time at Iona but I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of off leash dogs. Dogs are supposed to be leashed throughout the park yet I counted eighteen running about compared to three whose owners had the decency to follow the rules and, more importantly, respect the environment. It seemed as though some of the birds were already having a bit of a rough time in the strong wind, the last thing they needed was for some dog to come tearing through the brush where they’re trying to take shelter.

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Colony Farm: February 15th 2010

Colony Farm is not a place I get out to very often despite it being only a half an hours drive from where I live. The weather was quite pleasant when I visited and it was warm enough at one point for me to walk around in a t-shirt.

Much of Colony Farm is open ground with a scattering of large bushes and small trees; in other words some pretty decent Northern Shrike habitat (1). I found a handsome example of the species perched atop a bush nearby the pump house on the eastern bank of the Coquitlam River.

Evidently this particular Shrike had seen its fair share of birders and their gear because after looking me over it yawned and returned its attention to the surrounding field. Northern Shrike usually look for their prey from an elevated perch and they may move from perch to perch depending on prey availability (1). I was able to observe this behavior as the bird frequently changed its position among three nearby bushes. Unfortunately, both for me and the bird, there didn’t appear to be any prey in the area and the Shrike eventually flew off.

At the pond/marshland near the eastern end of the pump house trail a Pied-billed Grebe was diving for aquatic invertebrates or, perhaps, small fish and a group of Gadwall were preening and resting close by (2).

On my way out I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched atop a pole…

Colony Farm is quite picturesque and the birding is not bad either; it’s unfortunate that the rapid transit infrastructure in this city is not more developed so as to allow one to get out to places like this in a reasonable amount of time. According to Google Maps it would take about two hours to get there with public transit versus the thirty five minutes by car it took on this trip. I guess I’ll have to wait for my mom to be in a birding kind of mood before she’ll take me out here again.

References:

  1. Cade, Tom J. and Eric C. Atkinson. 2002. Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/671doi:10.2173/bna.671
  2. Muller, Martin J. and Robert W. Storer. 1999. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/410doi:10.2173/bna.410