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Brown Shrike: my two cents

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  • Sean E. McAllister
    7 December 2010 Today just after noon, under the cover of a stiff wind and a thick and dark cloud layer, I flushed the Brown Shrike from the east side of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2010
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      7 December 2010

      Today just after noon, under the cover of a stiff wind and a thick and
      dark cloud layer, I flushed the Brown Shrike from the east side of the
      south pond at Clam Beach. The shrike flew across the pond to the
      northwest side, where it was then seen well by Rachel Smith and Kerry
      Ross . I wanted to mention this, not simply to inform others of its
      continued presence (it does seem that it will over-winter), but because
      the situation today, as well as several other recent days when the shrike
      has been observed, runs counter to some of the 'criteria' that has been
      suggested for successfully finding this bird.

      For one thing, I don't
      think the weather has much to do with the birds behavior, although it
      certainly can put a damper on a birder's ability to detect it.

      Next, I am not as certain as some others that walking through the
      habitat, as opposed to viewing from a distant fixed position is
      necessarily the best approach. I have seen the shrike on three
      occasions. The first occasion I attribute to first hearing its call
      (more on that below) which prompted me to aim my scope in its direction;
      the second was from a fixed elevated position, where waiting patiently
      and quietly paid off; and today I clearly flushed the bird from the
      riparian vegetation as I walked through it. After the second time I saw
      the bird and prior to today, I spent 3-4 hours at a time on three
      occasions waiting at fixed positions and getting nothing. On one of
      those occasions I watched two other birders find the shrike by walking
      through the habitat. So basically, I don't think there is any one method
      that is best and I will! offer one of my favorite birder quotes as
      advice: "...just ge t the bird" (the Prez).

      Regarding the commentary about groups of birders encircling an area where
      the bird was last seen,
      and then having someone attempt to flush the bird out, to which one
      local birder already publicly acknowledged having done, I'm compelled to
      reveal
      that it was not limited to one person. In fact, I did it and I know of
      others who did as well and with all due respect I don't think anyone should
      feel "dumb" or
      "stupid" for it. It was completely intuitive at the time, and it had
      real potential for getting multiple people on the bird. We learned from
      it and that's a good thing.

      The Call
      I've heard the Humboldt Brown Shrike call on! two occasions (different
      dates). At first, when a few of us heard it we only knew it was
      something unfamiliar and we speculated that it was either the shrike or
      perhaps some sort of Marsh Wren alarm call, but as I aimed my scope in
      the direction of the call I eventually found the shrike perched atop a
      cattail stalk. And later, after I compared what I heard with
      descriptions and recordings of Brown Shrike calls, there was no question
      it was what we had heard. Although it seems unlikely that the shrike
      calls frequently, birders should be aware of it just in case they hear it,
      as you'll need all the tools you can get for this one. With that in mind,
      here
      are a couple of descriptions and links to recordings for reference:

      Loud and harsh chattering "jahjahjahjahjahjahjah" (A photographic Guide
      to the Birds of Japan and North-East Asia)




      Harsh chattering cheh-cheh-cheh (Field Guide to the Birds of China)

      http://ibc.lynxeds.com/sound/brown-shrike-lanius-cristatus/bird-alarm-callin
      g


      http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?query=Brown+Shrike

      Once, while searching for the shrike I heard what turned out to be
      someone playing recorded calls of Loggerhead Shrike. The calls were
      similar enough to the Brown Shrike calls I had heard that it put me on
      my toes, so if you are already familiar with Loggerhead calls and you
      hear something similar out there, it would be worth a look.

      Sean McAllister

      Ridgewood Heights

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