Butcher Bird

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Last night Louisa and I watched the fourth episode of Planet Earth 2, an astonishingly well-filmed series put out by the BBC.  The photography is spectacular.  Episode 4 is about the desert and it features several brief segments about our home, the Sonoran Desert.  Definitely catch this series if you can.

One of the brief segments was about the “Butcher Bird.”  That is a sobriquet for Loggerhead Shrike.  The species gets the nickname because of shrikes’ habit of impaling their prey on thorns or even on the tines of barbed wire fences.  The segment vividly illustrated that tendency.

But, shrikes are more than predators, albeit with some fairly gruesome behavior.  They are among the most beautiful of all of the species that I photograph. I love photographing these birds and will never pass up an opportunity for an image.

These birds, aside from being beautiful, have a tendency to perch low.  The bird in this first image is an excellent example; it is perching on a reed that is only three or four feet tall.  Photographing shrikes on low perches often results in lovely backgrounds that set off the birds.

This next photo is not only my favorite photo of a shrike but it ranks among my all-time personal favorite images.

I took this photo back in December on a very cold morning.  When I first saw the shrike it was perching on a utility wire, not a particularly attractive setting.  I parked my car to observe it from the open driver’s side window.  To my delight, the bird suddenly descended and landed on a dead weed, just a few feet in front of me.  The weed was much flimsier than the shrike anticipated and so, it struggled to balance itself for just a second before giving up and flying off.  I was extremely fortunate to capture this image.  I was even more fortunate with the background.  The setting for this image was a farmyard that contained a lot of agricultural equipment and assorted additional objects.  The shrike happened to land just in front of a very large shipping container, the kind that is hauled on railroad cars.  A lucky break for me and a great background.

Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting.  The first image shot at ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1250.  The second image shot at ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640.

One response to “Butcher Bird”

  1. Tom Munson says :

    Wonderful images, Steve. This is very difficult bird to get close to up, here.

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