Grooming Loggerhead Shrike

It’s been a while since I’ve been this close to a cooperative shrike.

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed the bird yesterday morning on Antelope Island. The perch is cluttered with twigs that aren’t ideal but I usually had a clear view of the shrike and personally I still prefer an “imperfect” natural perch like this to a fence post or wire.

 

 

1/1600, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Perhaps the reason the shrike was unusually tolerant of my presence was because it was so intent on grooming. The bird worked over a significant portion of its plumage in the few minutes I spent with it. It’s hard for me to get preening shots I like because while they’re grooming birds usually have their nictitating membranes closed but this photo was an exception and I even got a bit of light in the eye.

 

 

1/1600, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Instead of closing its membrane this bird chose to partially close an eyelid so it could still see what it was doing and that’s something I don’t see very often.

 

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I have several shots with the eyelid in this position – perhaps it’s akin to us squinting our eyes in conditions where we need to protect them but still see.

 

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

The shrike spent a lot of time cleaning its bill on the gnarly branch. I’m not sure why because both sides of it looked clean to me. Maybe this was just a very fastidious bird.

 

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

After an extended bout of preening and grooming the shrike turned its back to me, gave me one last look and flew off – away from me of course. But I still wasn’t through photographing it.

 

 

1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 1000, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

It landed on another nearby perch and… you guessed it – continued to clean its bill. Despite the twigs in front of its face this photo works for me because of the peek-a-boo effect through the twigs.

Given the cluttered perches these photos are aesthetically lacking but I always enjoy behaviors – even minor everyday behaviors like these. And I love shrikes so I couldn’t resist posting the photos.

Ron

 

 

 

Facebook

The Three Rarest Bird Species I’ve Seen In Ten Years Of Bird Photography

And I actually managed to get photographs of all three of them (I’ve posted photos of each of these birds in the past but all six of these images are new to my blog).

Recent events have taken some of the wind out of my sails and yesterday’s tooth extraction didn’t help. I’ve had another tooth pulled in the past and that one wasn’t bad but this extraction truly kicked my butt. Last night when I finally began to feel semi-human again I was actively trying to think of pleasant thoughts (I was willing to try anything to get those endorphins flowing!) and some memorable bird sightings came to mind and eventually helped me get through it.

So today’s post is a direct result of yesterday’s trauma, which was aggravated by the fact that it was a gloriously beautiful day and I was stuck in the dentist’s chair and later at home in my misery. Please, no sympathy. Most everyone has endured similar or worse experiences but I wanted to explain my motivation for this post.

 

1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 500 Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

My first true “rarity” was this juvenile gray morph Gyrfalcon along the causeway to Antelope Island on February 11, 2015. It passed me from behind on the passenger side of my vehicle while I was driving so I didn’t get a good look at it while it was close. Then it veered to the south and perched on the mudflats perhaps 1/4 mile away. This was one of the “better” shots I was able to get of it as it headed south.

 

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 640 Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

After a while it took off headed northwest, passed over the causeway far in front of me and appeared to be high-tailing it toward Fremont Island.

I reported my sighting to the Utah Birds Record Committee and it was reviewed and unanimously accepted by the committee. In their confirmation to me the committee stated that “this is only the seventh Gyrfalcon record for Utah and the first in 13 years”.

 

 

1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500 Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Only two months later Mia and I found two Mountain Plovers on Antelope Island (eagle-eye Mia spotted them first). Though the sexes are similar I believe this to be the female of a mated pair migrating north, possibly to Montana. Both birds were cooperative, even tame which is typical of the species.

 

 

1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 500 Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I believe this slightly more colorful bird to be the male of the pair.

Mountain Plovers are uncommon throughout their range and extremely rare in Utah. These two birds were only the 10th confirmed sighting of the species in Utah.

 

 

1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500 Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Then on August 31 of 2016 we spent some time with this Upland Sandpiper atop a power pole in Box Elder County (once again it was Mia who spotted it). This is a fairly large, elegant species and it blew my socks off to get some quality photos of it despite the ugly perch.

 

 

1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500 Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Once in the middle of a rouse it held its wings up for several seconds which gave me some interesting shots even in this sidelight. The sandpiper spent some time calling from atop its high perch and I thought it sounded quite extraordinary. Here’s a link to the sound it was making while I was with it if you’re interested.

I’ve said before that I’m no birder – I’m a bird photographer! I don’t keep lists and I rarely chase rarities when they’re reported but I have to admit that I felt the tremendous rush and excitement of a birder when we found and photographed these three rare species.

I actually had “buck fever” each time and it was enjoyable to relive those experiences yesterday during my convalescence.

Ron

Note: I’ve also photographed another extremely rare bird in Utah – an almost pure white Gyrfalcon but that was an escaped falconry bird so I haven’t included it here.

 

 

 

Facebook