A few weeks ago I was able to photograph a Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) near the marina on Antelope Island State Park, Utah. It was an interesting experience for several reasons.
When I first spotted the Shrike it was perched on top of a Rabbitbrush and I was able to get several images of the bird before it dove into the base of another nearby bush. I thought it was going to expel a pellet when I took this frame, but it didn’t.
After a few moments the Shrike appeared on top of another Rabbitbrush adjacent to the one it had dived underneath. I wanted to get clear images of the bird’s tail without the foreground obstructions so I hoped it would move to another location.
The Loggerhead preened for a bit, it looks like it also needed to clean the blood from a recent meal from its bill too.
As I photographed the Shrike it suddenly hunched down, getting close to the bush it was perched on and I could tell that it was looking at something above and behind me but the roof of the “mobile blind” was in the way so I wasn’t sure what it was.
By the time I created this frame I could tell that the Shrike was watching a Common Raven fly by, I’m fairly certain that Ravens do not prey on adult Loggerhead Shrikes but they may prey on their young. I have seen this hunkering down behavior in Loggerhead Shrikes before.
Within just a few moments after the Raven flew out of range the Shrike dove into the base of the same Rabbitbrush it had been underneath before, at first I thought it went into the bush for safety reasons but I was soon to find out why it had been returning to that bush. When the Loggerhead flew out of the bush I could tell it had something in its bill, I quickly zoomed all the way out, locked on focus and was able to fire off four images as the Shrike perched briefly on a dried out Sunflower stalk. A pretty messy environment but I felt the image was interesting because of the prey in the bill.
The bird flew off and out of sight so I got out of the mobile blind and went over to the bush the Shrike had gone into both times with one of my backup D200′s that has my Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens attached to it.
I was tickled to find the Shrike’s prey impaled on the bush, they cache prey that way. Think of it as a Shrike’s pantry, they know just where to go when they get hungry again.
The day was partly overcast which is why I used a high ISO for the Shrike images to get the shutter speeds I thought I might need and also why I was using positive exposure compensation.
It pays to observe your subject, to learn their behaviors and to not start up the engine to pull away too quick or I would have missed the shot of the Shrike with the prey in the bill. Having patience is a MUST in bird photography
Mia McPherson, OntheWingPhotography.com