The Life & Death Drama Outside My Window

As I write this, just outside my window two fledgeling Loggerhead shrikes hang on for their lives as a violent thunder showers whips the live oak tree their on from side to side. The two siblings were perched close together while one of the parents sat of top of them in a vain attempt to keep them dry. The wind is too much and now the siblings are soaked and separated from one another. They are still hanging on, but the wind and rain have been relentless. If they should fall off the tree I'm ready to go out there and keep them falling on the road. I have watched as the Loggerhead shrike parents constructed their nest among the thorns of the Bougainvillea in my front yard. I hope they will have better luck this year than last year when only one chick survived with the other two having fallen prey to a cat and a car.

Even in a cookie-cutter gated neighborhood like mine, there are life and death struggles all around us if we care to look. In the man-made lake by my house, Florida softshell turtle females venture out of the water in search of a sandy patch to bury their eggs among suburban lawns, a broad-winged hawk tries to raise its chicks by itself after its mate was killed by a car, a mama opossum with her babies hanging on to her dodges my neighbors dogs to come to my backyard for some cat food.

Some times animals fall victim to the world we built over theirs. We can chose to be kind and lend a merciful hand. I pick up a Florida softshell turtle from the road and take her to a sandy patch. I care for a baby opossum that was separated from its mom. I return a mocking bird chick to its nest. For my troubles I am rewarded with the beauty as marvel these animals bring to my everyday life.

The storm is abating and the little shrikes are soaked but ok for now. I feel so fortunate in my house dry and well fed. I only wish I could invite them in and enjoy their company while I work.

MtnMig MtnMig
36-40, M
6 Responses May 8, 2012

Like this so much as it was a live show and it reveals your concern for those lovely birds. thanks MtnMig

UPDATE #2<br />
Today the Shrikes chicks made their first real flight away from the oak tree. I last sow them making a less than graceful landing on a sampling their parents like to perch when hunting. The chicks are both strong and healthy and it is possible this will be the last time I will see them. The parents will continue to feed them for a couple more weeks as the chicks begin making more short flights and learn to hunt on their own. Soon after they will leave and establish their own territory. These young birds are still naive and vulnerable to predators, windows, cars and cats. I hope they make it and nest somewhere near so I can watch them too next year.<br />
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If you don't know what a Shrike looks like he is a picture: http://sdakotabirds.com/species_photos/loggerhead_shrike.htm.<br />
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Shrikes are fearsome hunters and unlike most birds of prey this small predator will kill prey larger than itself! Since they lack the talons of raptors they use thorns to impale prey so they can tear their meal and eat it. Here is a video of this small bird eating a snake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=fvwp&v=gfHxylSQT2Q<br />
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Here is a great slow motion video of someone hand feeding some wild shrikes. It really awesome http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVYrg-H02TY&feature=related.<br />
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Enjoy

I hope that you can get back to that kind of work too. It sounds amazing. It's just that your enthusiasm is contagious. No matter if your area is beautiful or not--it's obviously wildlife central. There must be something there that they find attractive. I got excited when I spotted a baby bunny outside my back window so I am pretty easy to please. <br />
PS--saw a Osprey make a catch on the pond in my backyard last week. Talk about right place at the right time: Awesome.

If I find a job as a wildlife biologist again I'll be the happiest guy in the world. I have been spending crazy hours sitting down in front of my computer re-analyzing my dissertation's data thanks to my less that helpful dissertation committee. Now that I'm working with any interference (or pay :(), I am hopeful that I put together a couple of really good research papers. Today was a good day and although the analyses in my research are very challenging, today the results were encouraging. I love to see Osprey catch fish, I'm glad that you got to see it. There are osprey that fish in the lake by my house. There used to be an Osprey nest that I could observe from my window but unfortunately the power company removed it. These wildlife observations are so important to me. They are reminders that there is a world out there that beckons and encourages me to keep the faith.

Update<br />
The Loggerhead chicks looked miserable but they made it through the storm. Their parents were busy all day catching Cuban anole lizards to feed the hungry chicks. An extended family of blue jays perched nearby after they noticed the still vulnerable chicks. Shrikes are tough birds and the blue jays would not would not want to tangle with the adults. Sure enough as soon as the parents returned with prey in their beaks for the chicks, the blue jays were chased off in full speed aerial assault by the more nimble Shrikes. <br />
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A huge iguana sunned himself in my back patio after the rain. The best looking iguana I have seen yet. I gave the handsome fellow some strawberries which he enjoyed very much. Unbeknownst to him, the strawberries diminished his fearsome look by painting his lips lipstick red. I'll get a picture of him next time.

Iguana. Like little tiny dinosaurs. Pictures!

Sounds like you have good heart may God Bless you and the critters you care for

Thank you kindly : )

All I can say is that's some window into the natural world you've got there!<br />
I would never get anything done. I'd be mesmerized, like you. I hate that birds get hit by cars. I find myself screaming at them at times; you have the whole sky! Stay up there where it is safe! Don't come down! <br />
You must live in a beautiful place. Animals are not stupid. They like to live surrounded by beauty also. I'm relieved the little ones survived the storm. Please let this be a continuing story. I liked hearing about the world outside your window. Cool stuff.

I wish I could tell you that I live in a natural wonder. Quite to the contrary, I live in a sterile development in what once was a limestone quarry. The so called lakes were the quarry pits that filled up with water. Developers build homes and lawns in nearly every inch around the lake and called it 'lake front' properties. Florida was once a sight to behold but little of the natural Florida remains today. I was fortunate to have worked in the Everglades for years and at Canaveral National Seashore, both are amazingly beautiful and at times very harsh places to work. I also worked for the Forest Service in Montana where I hiked hundreds of miles doing wildlife surveys. That was a unforgettable experience.
I really hope to find another job like that. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.