Bird on a Blade

 

Turkey Vulture ~ January 5

I rarely visit the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge without finding a bird or two perched on the old windmill that stands near the Big Slough. Turkey vultures seem fond of the spot, although black vultures and an occasional hawk will pause there as well.

On February 7, I noticed a different species had taken up residence. A Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) was using the windmill’s vane to scan for the insects, lizards, and small mammals that make up the bulk of its diet.

Shrikes are part of the songbird family, although they behave more like raptors. A sharp, falcon-like hook in their beak allows them to attack and capture prey, but they lack the talons and strong feet of hawks and owls. Unable to hold their prey while eating, as raptors do, shrikes carry their meal to a thorn bush, cactus, or barbed wire fence, where they impale it in order to dine at leisure, or store it for later consumption. 

Their propensity for impaling prey on thorns or barbed wire has earned them the name ‘butcher bird, and their ‘larders’ are sure signs of a shrike’s presence. Because they prefer open areas with short vegetation and plenty of vantage points from which to watch for prey, a windmill vane or blade suits them perfectly.

While I watched, this shrike moved from the windmill’s vane to the top of its blades, and scanned the ground below. Every minute or two, it made another dive to the ground: sometimes returning directly to the blade, and sometimes flying off into surrounding grasses before coming back to perch.

Since I never saw it eating, it may be that it was filling up its larder. Given the extraordinary cold, freezing rain, snow, and sleet that we’ll have for the next week, I hope it’s well-supplied.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Meet Aristophanes

 

Many years ago, photographer Judy Lovell graciously allowed me to use her photo of Plato the Pelican in one of my blog posts.

I’m as fond of Plato as Judy, and still enjoy seeing him from time to time.  I never imagined I would find a bird equally striking, but in January of this year I discovered this crested caracara sitting on a fence post at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge.

Initially, I thought to name him Cicero, just for the sake of alliteration: Cicero the Caracara does have a bit of a ring to it. But every time I look at him I laugh, so Aristophanes it is. Not only was Aristophanes (c. 450 bce – c. 388 bce) a great comic playwright, one of his finest plays still is enjoyable and amusing. It’s title? The Birds.

 

Comments always are welcome.