I ventured to the Meadowlands over the weekend to try and find the Northern Shrike that has been hanging out there recently. Shrikes are bad-ass birds, preying on anything and everything they can get their razor sharp, hooked beak on. They often save food for later, impaling insects, reptiles, and even smaller birds on plant spines and barbed wire fences. The day before I took the trip up the Turnpike, the Shrike had been seen feeding on a mouse.
Arriving around 7:30am, I was disappointed to see that all of the water along the DeKorte Park trail was frozen over. It had been cold the last few days, but a few degrees above freezing, so I didn't think such large bodies of water would be totally frozen. After hanging out there for awhile I went over to the nature center and walked one of the boardwalk trails...again, everything was frozen! I couldn't believe it. Even if the Northern Shrike hadn't been hanging around, the Meadowlands is usually a great spot for wintering waterfowl - Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, merganser species, etc.
After returning to Disposal Road I continued to search for the Shrike. Plenty of Song Sparrows flitted about cautiously, and there were a surprising amount of Northern Harriers (one of my favorite raptors). A Merlin even zoomed by and vanished into some tall vegetation on the side of the road. No Shrike, though. After a very cold 4 hours I decided to pack it up.
Photograph by Rick Leche (c) 2007
After arriving home I logged into my email and found a message that had just been sent - "Meadowlands Shrike - YES". The bird had been seen literally 5 minutes after I had left! Five minutes! Boy, oh boy. I can accept a bird not showing up - that's just birding. But a bird coming out 5 minutes after a 4 hour failed attempt? That stings. It does, however, serve as a reminder that birds aren't just out there for us to check off or photograph. They have no knowledge of our hobbies and our obsessions. They're wild animals and they're acting accordingly.