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Reader photo: A split second after leaving its perch, a Northern Shrike stands still in the air

Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor), Nanaimo Estuary, British Columbia, November 12, 2014, 1:41 p.m., by Steve Large
Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor), Nanaimo Estuary, British Columbia, November 12, 2014, 1:41 p.m., by Steve Large

Shrikes are often referred to as butcher birds for their habit of impaling prey on thorns. Thanks to Steve Large, who posted this picture to the BirdWatching Magazine group on the photo-sharing site Flickr, we can also call them bullet birds.

Steve Large
Steve Large

Large is a seventh-degree martial arts instructor who has operated a taekwondo school in Nanaimo, British Columbia, for the past 25 years. He credits his father with inspiring him to appreciate nature. He began photographing wildlife about eight years ago and frequently shoots at the Nanaimo Estuary, the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and Boundary Bay in southern British Columbia.

Large watched this Northern Shrike at the Nanaimo Estuary last fall. Shrikes prefer to scope out their prey from a high vantage point and then dive down on it, he says. This bird had just launched itself from a pear tree.

“In order to dive, shrikes must first prepare with a downward thrust of their wings,” Large says. “This drives them slightly above their original perch, where they stall and then fold their wings in a dive. When the shrike stalls, there is little movement, so it’s almost like it’s standing still in the air for a split second before the dive occurs. This is what you are seeing in the picture.”

Large used the following equipment and settings to take the photograph:

Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark 4
Lens: Canon 600mm with 1.4x teleconverter
Settings: 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 800, manual focus in AI Servo mode
Light: Natural
Format: RAW converted to JPG
Adjustments: Cropping, sharpening, exposure adjustment, and noise reduction

A version of this article appeared in the February 2015 issue of BirdWatching magazine. Subscribe.

Originally Published

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