Friday, December 4, 2009

Visitors from the North Country

After returning to the Ozarks in early November, I was eager to return to old stomping grounds. November ended up being one of the warmest ever recorded in Missouri, so it was pleasant to spend as much time as possible out in the field. Even though the temperature rose into the 60's on November 22, a northern buddy returned to its late fall stopover for the second year in a row. The Lockwood Northern Shrike returned to the exact brush pile and surrounding fields as last year, eager to pose for my birding friend Marvin DeJong's camera.
It was only two years ago that I saw my life Northern Shrike at Fellows Lake, but I've managed to see the species for the past 3 years now. Does this represent a range expansion, or just a short term shift in migration pattern? Seems like most of the range expansion going on around here is toward the north. But, only time will tell with this northern version of shrike. Interestingly, the Northern Shrike that inhabited Whetstone Conservation Area in Fulton County, Missouri, last winter has arrived to occupy the exact same location this year, too.
On another note, how large is a loon's esophagus? Can it swallow a White Bass this size? Marvin DeJong caught this Common Loon with its successful catch on Stockton Reservoir last week. What do you think....... was it a snack for the loon, or did it escape back into the waters of Stockton?

GOAS Field Trip is off to Lockwood and Stockton again in the morning. Wonder what delights await us? Come back to find out!

1 comment:

Jochen said...

Wow, nice observations! As a primarily European birder, I am always amazed at how long the bill of the North American Northern Shrikes is - that's another candidate for a split, in my honest opinion.
European Northern Shrikes also occupy winter teritories over many, many years. A friend of mine investigated old data and found that some territories have been occupied nearly every year since the 1970ies (obviously not always the same bird), so you stand a good chance of re-encountering "your" birds next year.

And regarding the loon, there's an interresting yet somehow graphic series currently at "Tetrapod Zoology" (see link on my blog or google it) of predators that died eating a prey item that turned out being too large. Just scroll back a few days - but be warned, the pictures can be quite "anatomical".

Again ,welcome back!