On the Move

by Carl Strang

Yesterday morning as I parked my car at the Forest Preserve District’s Danada headquarters, a strikingly marked bird flew to the top of a shrub in front of me.

A northern shrike!

This always is an exciting bird to see, not only because they are uncommon winter visitors from the far North, but because of their dramatic behavior. When a shrike leaves its perch, it does not simply fly away, but rather drops and Accelerates! Going from a state of watchful rest to full speed in two wingbeats, the bird scribes a graceful line through the air as it rises to its next perch and instantly again is alert stillness.

Birds are on the move again, showing signs of shifting out of their winter patterns. This shrike probably had a winter territory somewhere else, or I would expect to have seen it sooner. The first red-winged blackbirds appeared a couple weeks ago. Dark-eyed juncos have moved out of their winter home ranges. Robins are showing up in small groups in places from which they were absent in recent months, and have begun to forage on the ground. The numbers remain small, but all these cases collectively signal the start of a season of change. Canada geese increasingly are in pairs rather than flocks. Great horned owls are well into incubation. Spring is coming.

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