Date: 1/6/19 6:48 pm
From: Steve Johnson via VA-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: [VA-bird] Northern Shrike seems to have a new home
Hello birders,
Looking at eBird, since Dec. 18th, the Northern Shrike has been reported several times at Rock Hill District Park (Fairfax County), and only once during that time at Sully Woodlands.  During that time I have looked and failed to find it at Sully WL at least 3 times.
Several people including me found the bird again today at Rock Hill.  It seems to alternate between the two, but recently appears to be spending more time at RHDP.  It was first seen at RHDP during its first winter here, January 2017, but was not reported there at all last winter.
Besides these two parks, one day recently I checked two others nearby: Mountain Road District Park, and the parcel on the E side of Pleasant Valley Road across from Cox Farms.  (Do we have a name for that parcel of county land?)  (I did not find the bird anywhere that day.)  Both of these are "not much out of the way" on a bees' line trip between the bird's two known locations.  I discount Cox Farms itself (SE corner of Braddock Rd and P.V. Rd) as a 5th possibility because it has little or no unmown fields.

Of those latter two, my impression was that Mtn Rd. DP has very similar habitat for the NSHR, and has that nice track on the W side leading N from Braddock Road to access the field.  But the fields E of P.V. Road (whatever we call that area) are more grown up, i.e. not similar foraging habitat as the two known locations.  And they're harder to walk around in - lots of bushwhacking required.
I have long wondered what that bird does, where it goes, when we can't find it.  I thought maybe it had an alternate location, and now it appears it does habituate at least two locations.
Although, on the other hand .. .. Today the bird flew down, apparently down to prey quite close to its perch.  I'm sure it did not fly more than 30-40 feet from its tree.  But I watched, and waited, for at least 10 minutes, and saw no further sign.  This has happened before, and it seems to just disappear like magic.
My only vague guess is that the bird stays low with its prey, either immediately consuming it near the point where it caught it; or else hanging it up as shrikes do, but very low, without moving it far.  It doesn't seem to be carrying anything up to a prominent branch to hang it, or we'd see the bird after these "disappearance flights".
Steve Johnson
Fairfax, Virginia
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