Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol. 138
We finally had a whole week of winter with very little snow, but temperatures in the single digits during the day and way below zero nightly. Our low here at Eight Acre Wood was -28 one morning and -25 another morning, which was pretty zippy cold when I went out to feed the birds at sunup. The birds were all sitting on their feet trying to eat in that position. The Blue Jays had a tough time doing this as they tried to open a sunflower seed between their toes. Their numbers have increased as they haven’t been able to find a beechnut in a few weeks. The little birds stay out of their way, as they know a Blue Jay can have them for breakfast just as well as a sunflower seed, if given the chance.
I did have a predatory bird come in this week, a Northern Shrike, which tried to catch one of my Slate Colored Juncos that was in my Potter trap. All the other three doors were down so I went out and opened them. The Shrike, not wanting to let a meal go by, came right back and went in another compartment to get at the Junco who was just hunkered down to keep from being caught by the Shrike. The door went down behind it, and I had the Shrike and I let the banded Junco go unharmed. This is the fifth Shrike I’ve caught here at Eight Acre Wood, all in the Potter trap, while trying to get at another trapped bird. Other small birds bite and some leave marks on fingers if they get a good hold, like a Cardinal or Grosbeak sometimes do, but the Shrikes have a hook bill meant for tearing into meat. I got the bird inside, put on a band, measured the wing and I was checking the tail feathers for aging. It grabbed the end of my thumb and it drew blood as I got free. Lesson learned, keep fingers out of a Shrike’s bill. This bird was an after-hatch year bird and not fully colored gray yet. Out the window it went, and I haven’t seen it since, but with all the little birds I have at the feeders, it will be back as it knows where it can find lunch.
One year I had a Northern Shrike that was a regular visitor, and it would sit over the feeders for what seemed hours waiting for a mouse or shrew to come out of hiding for a seed in daylight. It would swoop down and hardly ever missed getting a meal. The Shrike is only Robin size and it sometimes struggled to fly away with its prey. One day while the shrike was waiting for a mouse to appear, a Black Capped Chickadee came in for a seed and the Shrike took chase, but the Chickadee escaped capture. That Chickadee learned to check out the surroundings before getting a snack or possibly becoming the snack.
Another experience I had with a Shrike, I was patrolling in the Moose River Plains in late fall and I saw a small drag mark in the new fallen snow with wing tip marks along the drag path, which went under a bush. I had to check this out and out from under the bush flew a Northern Shrike. I checked under the bush and there was a dead Robin, which the shrike had caught and killed. Both birds are about the same size, but a predator is a predator and when I went by that spot later in the day the Robin had been eaten.
You may have missed the PowerPoint presentation of Jonathan Zaharek at View and his adventures of climbing the 46 High Peaks in winter. Great show and I’m sure it will be at other places, so don’t miss it. His photos are in the Gallery at View along with the show Winter in Action, both worth some time to see.
Ice fishermen are a hardy bunch and many have been out even in this below zero weather trying to catch that big one. I have seen some nice catches, but as of yet, I haven’t put a line in the water. I’ve been checking my trap line, but with all my traps now in the cellar, I might get out and catch a few splake on Limekiln or get in one of the tournaments this weekend. The Mike Norris Fishing Derby on Raquette Lake is Saturday, 1/29, lines in the water a 7am and last weigh in is at 3:30pm. Pre-registration on-line at Raquette Lake Fish and Game Facebook page or by calling 518-624-3077.
The other is the Annual Ken Lyons Memorial Ice Fishing Derby 1/29 and 30, $25 for adults and $10 for kids under 10. Fishing 1st through 4th Lakes, only as ice conditions allow. Weigh-in is at the Alger Island Access Area on Fourth Lake. For additional information or to make a donation, please call Chris 315-922-4868, Chip 315-392-4705, or Dylan 315-796-2795.
Keep your dogs confined, but that’s another story. See ya.
Above photo: Shrike on Potter Trap 2022
Mature Northern Shrike 2019