Loggerhead Shrikes With Prey

Plus a Box Elder County café where you definitely do NOT want to eat!

 

1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Just over two weeks ago while I was looking for birds in a fairly remote area of Box Elder County this Loggerhead Shrike swooped down very close to my pickup and scooped up a beetle (a stink beetle I believe) right in front of me. The bird was close enough that this image is almost full frame (uncropped). When the bird picked up the insect it briefly became tangled in a strand of vegetation so it held this posture long enough that I was able to get about a half-dozen shots just like this one.

 

 

1/5000, f/7.1, ISO 800, 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 the shrike flew with its prize to a nearby sign post to enjoy the meal. As you can see the bird acted pretty excited about the snack as it was gobbled down.

 

 

1/5000, f/7.1, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I was hoping to get some interesting takeoff or flight shots when the shrike left the perch but…

 

 

1/5000, f/7.1, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

it wasn’t going far enough for that so its wings were barely opened when the shrike launched. Its destination was…

 

 

1/5000, f/7.1, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

the second post supporting the sign only a couple of feet away.

Apparently when it swallowed the beetle it also got some plant debris in its mouth so it opened and closed its beak several times as it tried to deal with that little annoyance.

 

 

1/3200, f/7.1, 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

Thirteen minutes later I encountered another shrike as it attempted a delicate and potentially painful task. It had captured a yellowjacket and then flew to this perch to consume it. Yellowjackets are predatory wasps that unlike honeybees often sting their victims repeatedly (barbs on their stingers are tiny which allows the repeated stings) and it was obvious that the shrike was well aware of the danger. The bird spent quite a while crushing the head and (I believe) mashing the body to make sure the wasp was dead before swallowing it.

It’s my guess that the shrike had suffered the wrath of a yellowjacket before. I hate those damn things except when they provide bird food.

On that same morning and in the same area I came across something that both amused and puzzled me. Perhaps one of my readers can explain it.

 

 

It was this sign out in the middle of nowhere in Box Elder County.

 

 

It was next to a small and narrow dirt road where driving is prohibited so I couldn’t investigate what the Carrion Café actually is and besides I’d already had my chocolate donut and milk for breakfast so I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want to compete with vultures for breakfast anyway…

This land is managed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources under the Department of Natural Resources. I believe the entire area is called the Salt Creek Public Shooting Grounds and the sign appears to be an official one but I can’t figure out what really goes on here (an internet search came up empty) and I’m quite curious about it. I could guess but that’s all it would be – a guess, but whatever it is I was pleased to see that DWR apparently has a sense of humor.

If any of my local readers know what the Carrion Café actually is I’d sure appreciate having my curiosity itch scratched.

Ron

 

 

34 comments to Loggerhead Shrikes With Prey

  • Laura Culley

    Yes, I’m late again. My email program and I are feuding and it often gets ugly…sigh.
    What a wonderful series, as usual. I love the birds who prey on annoying bugs! A yellow jacket got me once in Dallas, and I hope to never encounter another one. That darn thing stung me about a dozen times on the head and it hurt a LOT!
    As for the Carrion Café sign, I would HOPE it’s a dumping place for vulture dining, SAFE vulture dining, but since I don’t trust humans much, I’m just HOPING that’s the case. As for a sense of humor, I’m hoping that’s the case, too. Admittedly, I’ve lost faith in the vast majority of humanity, but I still remain optimistic (somehow), despite all the evidence to the contrary.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron I like all of your photos. However, I’m unable to see #4 and #6. I’m not sure why. I don’t see any other reader saying anything about this, which is curious.

    I hope that you are able to find the Carrion Café. I enjoyed the photo of the bird enjoying the Stink Beetle [wonder if it ‘stinks’!!!.

  • Very enjoyable post and nice images, especially the dive to the next post. Good to know those bothersome yellow jackets have a check their on numbers.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Beautiful photos once again!! Can’t wait to find out what the carrion café actually is.

  • Susan Stone

    Wonderful series with the Shrikes! I never thought about what they’d have to do to eat a wasp. I have observed White-throated Swifts going after bees, flying back and forth in front of a hive (very distracting when I was trying to tell a story on some of our tours at the park). They never seemed to have a problem with stinging – it was snatch and go. As for the Carrion Cafe – interesting concept. I hope someone knows about it, ’cause I’m definitely curious, too.

  • Two more reasons to love Loggerhead Shrikes. We get aptly named stink bugs here and I developed an antipathy for wasps when one got me in the underarm while I was swimming.
    Another intriguing series. And I do love a cafe which believes in ‘truth in advertising’. And would pass on that one.

  • hummingbird lover

    Hi! It raining here today! Men were to have cleaned out my air vents? But guess tomorrow if the weather is better? Your photo’s are great Keep up the good shots!

    !

  • Patty Chadwick

    I an interesting series. That sure looks like what we call a stink bug (beetrle)…I can’t help but love a bird that eats stink bugs and yellow jackets…hate them both!!! Almost as appetizing as voles….the chocolate donut sounded good, though. Wonder what’s behind the signs…..

  • While photographing Burrowing Owls in west Texas, we observed the adult owls bringing dried cattle dung to their babies. At first, we thought it odd. But we eventually realized the dung contained dung beetles, which the babies would pick out of the dung and eat. The beetle your Loggerhead was eating doesn’t look quite like the dung beetles, but fairly similar.

    In Texas some hunting camps maintain a designated dumping site for the deer carcasses (less the quartered out meat, of course). These are notoriously scavenged by Coyotes, Hogs, Vultures, Crested Caracara, Crows, etc. that eat carrion. It makes me wonder if the DNR has a similar location. Perhaps a place to dispose of roadkilled deer, etc. Just a wild guess.

    As always, I enjoyed your photos and interesting blog post.

    • Hope those hunting camps use non-lead ammunition…

      • Sadly, as far as I know it isn’t required there, Louise.

      • It’s the gradual accumulation of lead, particularly in water that poses the greatest danger. Lead shot that falls in the water may be ingested by geese and diving and dabbling ducks in particular. And the nature of duck hunting is that shot tends to fall in the same place year after year, accumulating over time. So steel shot is required for waterfowl hunting. To the best of my knowledge (on private property at least) that is the only kind of hunting that currently requires the use of steel shot in Texas. Steel shot is not currently required for dove hunting, even though some dove hunting occurs over water. But the vast majority of Texas dove hunting takes place over grain fields. So I guess Texas Parks and Wildlife has decided that the relatively small amount of dove hunting that happens over water is not worth requiring steel shot. At least at this time.

    • David, I’ve read of their tendency to do that with dung but it’s a behavior I’ve never witnessed, even in cattle and bison country.

      The hunting done on this Public Shooting Ground is mostly for waterfowl and some upland game birds (as far as I know) so I doubt there would be any gut piles or carcasses to dispose of.

      You may be right about the possible roadkill purpose for the “café”.

  • Judy Gusick

    VERY nice shots of the Shrike, Ron! I hadn’t thought about the Yellowjackets nailing a bird – know more than one dog who has snapped at them and lived to regret it! Had one up a pant leg as a kid that got me shedding the pants promptly modesty be damned! Interesting how they get their tongue involved which I haven’t really seen before. Other than being remote I’d guess the Carrion Cafe’ is for dumping road kill or some such thing. Sheriff/Hwy Patrol use a couple of coolies around here for that purpose something we discovered quite by accident some years back 🙂

  • Diane Bricmont

    Great series of a bird I don’t get to see often enough. Love them all, but the one with the yellowjacket is my favorite! Thanks again, Ron!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful series Ron!

    Charlotte

  • Zaphir Shamma

    My job used to take me to the Dugway Proving Grounds probably 4 times a year. I fell in love with Utah during those trips. I hope that my job will one day take me back. I enjoy seeing all of your photos and reading what you write. Thank you for being part of my mornings 🙂

  • Dick Harlow

    Wonderful shots of the Shrike.
    I think “sense of humor” is key! Or at least that is my take on it living far, far away from your state.

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