Shrike in Caledon: December 2020

In early August I prepared a post about my yearly visit to buy 250 lbs of bird food. Well , here we are less than 5 months in the future and I am already running out. My little backyard visitors have been hungry and are spreading the word to their friends it seems.

This entailed a drive to Caledon east.

At this rate, I should be back here in April.

En route, on a country road, I spotted a robin-sized bird on a wire and stopped to have a look. Mourning Dove? Kestrel? I was pleasantly surprised … a Northern Shrike.

Northern Shrike

This species visits southern Ontario only in winter while spending the summer in the Hudson Bay and James Bay lowlands.

Northern Shrike

If they catch too much prey (mice or small birds), they have been known to impale the catch on a thorn for future use.

Northern Shrike
Northern Shrike
Northern Shrike

Near the feed store there is a former railway track which has been converted into a nature trail:

I had a good though slippery walk here:

snow pellets
a tough ride as the trail was almost sheer ice
Tent Caterpillar construction (from far this appeared to be a bird)
Tent Caterpillar construction
Canada Geese

Some botany:

Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
White Birch (Betula papyrifera)
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Canadian Yew (Taxus canadensis)
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
Pincushion Moss on White Elm
Cat-tail (Typha)
Sensitive Fern fertile frond
Virgin’s-bower (Clematis virginiana)
Highbush-cranberry (Viburnum opulus)
Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo)
Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana)
Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia)
White Spruce (Picea glauca)
Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)
Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)
Missouri Willow (Salix eriocephala)
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)


To the cold December heaven
Came the pale Moon and the stars,
As the yellow Sun was sinking
Behind the purple bars.                             – Charles Dawson Shanly (1811–75)

Miles Hearn

3 thoughts on “Shrike in Caledon: December 2020

  1. Lisa Volkov

    Just goes to show you, you just never know what you’re going to see. And while the storage habits of this bird (Shrike!) were, well–dead or alive, I wondered. If dead, and less able to wriggle off, and I suppose already partially eaten, fine! Otherwise…but it is fascinating, and of course, very adaptive.
    Looks like a bit more winter up there. Thanks, Miles!

  2. Lisa Volkov

    I have an awful feeling it’s “alive”. After all, the bird can’t eat it, that’s why It’s “held in reserve” and that way, it stays “fresh”. I’ll look it up.
    Thanks, Miles! Always…interesting!

  3. Lisa Volkov

    Just watched it on YouTube. Fascinating! It’s how they kill. Nature–red in tooth and claw.
    Now I’m going to eat my dinner.


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