Finally, the loggerhead shrikes have returned. I didn’t see a one all winter. An indicator species, their absence concerned me. I wondered if rampant development of mile after mile of urban sprawl wiped out some of their habitat. Now, screaming babies and busy moms fielding everything from bugs and worms to anoles can be seen once again among live oak and gumbo limbo. Sporting smartly tailored tuxedos of gray, black, and white, these diminutive predators seem to like our neighborhood park.
South Carolina Wildlife TV filmed these fascinating birds in the wild. You can watch the video here.
I remember one day last year when I arrived home late, weary from another long day at work. According to habit, I quickly changed into shorts and started out on my daily two-mile stress relieving, reenergizing walk. Thoughts of plans, conferences, and deadlines raced through my head. Reaching the end of our street, I swung onto the winding path that traverses five acres of open lawn and shady trees at the end of our subdivision lake. Reeboks pounding, arms methodically swinging, and head held high, I purposefully powered across the damp pavement. Recently showered, the landscape glistened with tones of chartreuse and emerald. A white goose silently escorted duck companions across placid lake water as I pushed by.
Then, suddenly an explosion—two loggerhead shrikes burst from their hiding place in a mahogany just to my right. Chattering, teasing, they tumbled through the air, popcorn like, black and white tails flashing. Threading through leaf laden branches from tree to tree, twisting and turning, they danced in aerial ballet. Startled, I froze, mesmerized by the joyous symphony of their wings. Oh, the pure delight; the utter abandon of their dance.
A breath of wind brushed my face, a call perhaps to join. Dare I? Intentionally oblivious to the possibility of peering eyes, my feet left the predictable path and I sprinted, arms open wide, across the verdant lawn. A two-year old again, I lifted and twirled, dizzying myself with glee. Falling to the ground I sat, laughter bubbling up and bursting from within. Caving into the grass I surveyed the sky, tracking animal shaped clouds on their journey. How long I lay there, I’m not sure, but when I got up and resumed the pebbled blacktop, a new melody sang within—a song of freedom, of renewal and abundant life. Two loggerhead shrikes capped my day with a bit of serendipity as creation waited for my response.