The shrike and the shrew

Diane Spicer, who lives near Caribou Lake, sent these pictures of one of the many birds I still haven’t seen: a northern shrike. I hadn’t realized how cute they are, although I don’t suppose this shrike appeared cute to the shrew that became the shrike’s dinner.
Here are Diane’s pictures, starting with the shrike alone and followed by the shrike with its catch:

Recently, Bill Marchel had a lot to say about northern shrikes in a column he wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune headlined “Winged wonders of the winter.”
Shrikes are about the size of robins, but Marchel reports he has seen shrikes capture songbirds as large as house sparrows. He even saw one try to take out a Bohemian waxwing (unsuccessfully).
He also offers those of us who haven’t seen a shrike an idea of what to look for:
“Shrikes are not common, but a perceptive birder traveling rural roads during winter can spot several in a day because of the bird’s habit of hunting in the open country. Typically northern shrikes search for lunch from obvious perches such as power lines or other prominent locations. They sometimes hover in the air, watching for a meal on the ground. Look for shrikes around marshy lowlands such as willow and alder swamps.”
So there you have it. Look up. You never know what you might see.
Your bird pictures and stories exuberantly welcomed at:

A pecker and a t’mouse

Bernie St. George saw this tufted titmouse and downy woodpecker together through his kitchen window in Florida:

The downy is a first for him in Florida, Bernie says. He sees the woodpeckers frequently at his summer place in Wisconsin.
That’s one of the fun things about birding. If you happen to move from place to place, you’ll find that what’s common in one location is an exotic treat in another. That’s what a tufted titmouse would be, I think, if it were seen in the Northland.

Your bird stories and pictures greeted joyously at:

More from Florida

Bernie St. George keeps getting good shots of birds in Florida, some of which may have followed him south.
Here are several pictures he took of a magnificent hawk that paid visits the other morning. In one of them, a northern mockingbird is trying to get the hawk to leave, to no avail:

Bernie thinks it’s a Cooper’s hawk, but says it might be a broad-winged hawk. Thoughts, anyone?

And here’s a female cardinal, which seems attracted to pine chips, Bernie says:

“She’s a pretty one!” Bernie writes. Agreed.

Your bird pictures and stories welcomed at:

Titmice and birds in mourning in Florida

Bernie St. George is back in Florida, poor fellow.
One nice thing about it, though, is he gets to see tufted titmice, one of my favorite birds among those we don’t see in northern Minnesota. He says mockingbirds keep chasing cardinals and titmice away, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a mockingbird, either.
Here’s a titmouse Bernie photographed when it had a chance to do some feeding:

Beautiful bird.
Mourning doves have moved to Florida for the winter as well. Bernie says they’ll see as many as eight in the evening. They love to huddle near the house out of the wind, he reports.
Here are a couple of them (Just looking at the picture, I can almost hear that mournful cooing):

Bernie says it has been cold in Florida during the past week, with frost a couple of times.

Your pictures and stories about birds are always welcome at

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Birders’ to-do list

Here are a couple of upcoming activities to consider for your birding to-do list:

1. It’s December, children, which means you must be nice, because it’s almost … Christmas Bird Count time! Audubon boasts that the count, in its 111th year, is the longest-running “citizen science survey” in the world.
Last year, Audubon reports, was a record-shattering year. The numbers (set this to the tune of “On the Twelfth Day of Christmas” if you’d like): More than 2,100 bird counts; 60,753 people counting; 2,319 species; 55,951,707 total birds. The number of species counted was 200 more than the year before.
Counts took place in every state, every Canadian province, several Central and South American countries, Guam, Mariana Islands, Bermuda, Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The counts take place between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. I’ll post information about counts in the Northland in coming days.
In the meantime, you can get more information at:

2. Do you prefer to specialize? Audubon Minnesota will have its seventh Wintering Golden Eagle Survey of the Upper Mississippi River on Saturday, Jan. 15. During this year’s survey, 140 observers counted nearly 100 golden eagles in the bluffs and coulee region. If you’d like to volunteer or learn more, you can call Mark Martell, Audubon Minnesota director of bird conservation, at (651) 739-9332.

And you can contact me at:

These towns are for the birds

Fifteen Wisconsin communities earned kudos for helping protect urban birds, the Associated Press reports.
The “Bird City Wisconsin” designation by the Milwaukee Audubon Society recognizes efforts to improve bird habitat, manage woodlands, limit hazards and educate residents about birds.
The “Bird Cities” are Mequon, Stevens Point, Green Bay, Muskego, Oshkosh, New London, Lake Geneva, Brookfield, River Falls, Bayside, Chenequa, Hales Corners, Williams Bay, Manitowish Waters and Ozaukee County.
Each city receives a plaque, flag and street signs including a logo designed by Wisconsin landscape painter Tom Uttech and his wife, Mary.
The society also received a TogetherGreen Innovation Grant for nearly $31,000 to expand the project. They hope it becomes as popular as Tree City USA, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, the Associated Press report said.