We were wondering why Freya (the cat, not the goddess) was taking such an eager interest in the books on the coffee table. Upon moving the books I discovered why: a house spider (it was in the house…ergo…) scampered out only to be duffed by a white paw. She was gentle though (the cat) so the spider recovered and managed to skitter off to the table edge. A chase ensued and, as no spidery corpse has been found, and the cat lies sleeping (burpless) on my daughters bed, we will declare this epic Vert vs. Invert battle a draw.
(What Easter Is)
Atheists have no ultimate explanation
(Sometimes we just don’t know)
I found this spider, tipping it lightly over the snow at +2 deg.C. at the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary, west of Edmonton. A double woot to anyone who can identify this. (Click to enlarge)
(Photo taken with Canon SD850 IS)
Taken from our bedroom window. This raptor was eating a chickadee or nuthatch, which can still be seen in its talons. It looks immature to me, but what do I know? For a sense of scale, he/she is sitting on the edge of a 2×8, and the leaves are the large tip leaves of an apple. Considering the size of this hawk, I consider the relative smallness of the prey quite amazing. Taken in Edmonton, Alberta on September 4, 2008.
On the 21 November I was returning home after walking my daughter to school when something fluttered up as I entered the driveway. Having only my small Canon SD 850 with me at the time, I zoomed in on the bird as it sat in our garden birch, and snatched this shot. Looking down, I saw what it had been up to. A dead sparrow on the ground, still warm. I suspected it was a shrike, the first I have seen in Edmonton, and only upon cropping and enlarging the picture to see the tell tale hooked beak and distinctive mask was I able to confirm it: either the Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) or a Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), which are migrants through our region. There does seem to be some brownish mottling on the breast, so this is probably the Northern Shrike.
I left the sparrow where it lay and went inside to get my Nikon D80 with the 80 – 400mm zoom, to attempt a better picture, but unfortunately the bird was gone by the time I returned.
The Northern shrike is a predator which preys on insects, small mammals and even small birds. Like other shrikes, they impale their prey on thorns or wedge them between branches. Its relative, the Loggerhead shrike, is considered a bird at risk.
For more information see the entry at The Birds of North America Online.
This reminded me of my boyhood days in South Africa, where a sampling of smaller creatures of the veldt, from beetles to lizards to mice, could be found impaled on the barbed-wire fences that surrounded our country home – mostly the work of the Common Fiscal (Lanius collaris)