Thursday, February 3, 2011

Northern Visitors

All the birds at the feeders except the Mourning Doves and the Blue Jays took flight so I knew we had a visitor, one who preys on smaller birds. Sure enough a Northern Shrike was in a Crabapple tree just outside the kitchen window. I usually have a camera and binoculars at the ready so I snapped this photo.
Northern Shrike in crabapple tree
Northern Shrikes in Ontario usually nest in the northern taiga and migrate to southern Ontario for the winter months. We usually see these Shrikes each winter, as they are attracted to the bird activity around our feeders. They prey on small birds and rodents while here, but in summer they may prey on insects, frogs and snakes which they may impale on thorns or barbs to feed on later. They are a robin-sized bird with a hooked beak which helps dispatch prey. I love this rare visitor from the north and admire its ability to survive in harsh conditions.
Shrike with dead vole
Another northern visitor that has come around a few times this winter is the Bohemian Waxwing, a splendid bird that thrills with it’s unpredictable appearances.
Bohemian Waxwing
A flock will magically descend upon the yard, gorge themselves with high-bush cranberries or juniper berries then leave just as suddenly as they appeared. Recently a flock of 200 birds arrived to feed on juniper berries. I love to hear their faint trills. At winter’s end they retreat to the Hudson Bay lowlands to breed.  
Juniper Berries
 Other northern species have visited our feeders. American Tree Sparrows are pretty much a daily visitor in significant numbers. They nest on far northern coasts and the subarctic treeline.

Two tiny northern visitors: American Tree Sparrows
Rarely a few Common Redpolls have stopped by at the finch feeder. They are transient visitors, breeding in the coastal tundra.  I have yet to take a photo of these rare visitors. Since it’s unlikely I will ever visit these northern areas, I am always thrilled to catch these rare glimpses of our hardy northern species.
Those who know me will be surprised this is my first post about birds since they are my passion. Every day, my binoculars are with me on my walks or at hand on the kitchen counter. You will surely hear more about birds again and again...
Enjoy what the winter days bring,

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing photo of the shrike! Was he snacking on a mouse? If so, we should have on in our house! LOL!

    We too get the Bohemian waxwings in Halifax. I love seeing these little bandits in their large flocks and bright flashes of colour!

    I am looking forward to more posts about birds...and maybe even your amazing orchids too! :)