Date: 1/3/20 2:09 pm
From: Barbara Volkle <barb620...>
Subject: [MASSBIRD] Shrike Hunt
Thanks to Bob Ross for this report.

Barbara Volkle
Northborough, MA


From: Robert Ross <plumisl...>
Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2020 11:48:25 -0500
Subject: Shrike Hunt

The campground at Salisbury State Park this time of year is a ghost town.
With the RVs in storage, the grounds become a favorite spot for winter

As I walked across the grounds, I heard an usual sound of a flock of
mourning doves, cooing loudly and in panic. I then saw the flock lift off
from a small, wind-smacked cedar and fly into a small stand of pines. The
flock was at least ten birds and they flew together.

My first thought was a hawk or Merlin was near. Both are common in the
campground in the winter. I stopped to look around. I could not find any
falconiformes. The tops of the cedars were clear and there was no wings
soaring above, nor any shadows.

The flock of doves spooked again and flew toward the southeast corner. I
moved on, toward the small woods framing the north edge of the campground
and boarding the marsh, I heard the unmistakable chirps of snow buntings
and horned larks. The birds were in the marsh. Nearby, goldfinch and
sparrows also chirped excitedly.

Then a small, blueish-grey bird flew, head high, right in front of me. It
flew quickly and into a small pine where it instantly vanished. The white
bars on the black wings were obvious.

Shrike! I searched the tree with my binoculars but could not find the grey
ghost of passerines past. I scanned for several minutes. Nothing. The bird
had vanished in the instant it had appeared.

While we often see shrikes on the top of small bushes or trees, when they
are hunting they are stealth hunters. They often slip quietly into the
center of trees and into bushes where they instantly disappear. This Shrike
was on the hunt. I searched and searched, yet it alluded me. The Shrike was
not hiding from me. It was hiding from its prey. The query was much sharper
at picking out predators than I and the Shrike, as all successful
predators, is a master of hiding from its prey.

In the West, it is often said of mountain lions, the only time you see one
is when it is not hungry. If it is hungry, you will never see it coming. I
thought of this as I gave up on the Shrike. If I wanted to get a good look
I would have to wait until it was sated. If it was till hungry, I would
never see it coming.


Bob Ross
Newbury, MA
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