Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in Wyandot County. I've been coming here since I had a driver's license (before, actually) and have made scores of trips to Killdeer over the years. It's only about an hour from my house, so if time is tight and I need a short trip, this is often my destination. Rare is the trip to Killdeer Plains that doesn't produce something exceptional, no matter the time of year.
Probably over 99% of Ohio's original prairie, which may have once covered 1,500 square miles, has fallen to the plow or other development. That makes remnants such as Killdeer Plains all the more important. Birds, in particular, "remember" the prairies. It hasn't been that long since we pulled the habitat rug out from under their feet, and it seems that species that favor prairie habitats still are genetically encoded to use the former prairie areas as way stations, wintering grounds, and nesting areas.
The shrike of the north is this species, the Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, which is an uncommon winter visitor, mostly in the tier of counties buffering Lake Erie. Scattered individuals turn up inland, with Killdeer Plains probably being the best such place to find them.
Loggerhead and Northern shrikes look similar, and can be tough to separate, especially if one does not have much comparative experience with the two. This photo shows two characters of the Northern Shrike: the underparts are faintly but noticeably barred, and the black bandido mask is broken or diminished on the forehead, over the bill.
When I returned to this area later in the day, one of the shrikes was conspicuous as it perched atop prominent trees, but the other was not to be seen. I suppose it was forced to move to a distant patch of turf. They're both probably still within the wildlife area, and likely will be until spring.
the Wilds a few years back, when we observed a Northern Shrike laboriously toting this hefty rodent into the shrubs. After it departed, we of course rushed over to see what had become of the vole. Its neck vertebrae had been snapped by the shrike's raptorlike bill, and later the shrike undoubtedly returned to tear the beast asunder as it hung from the branches as if suspended by a butcher's hook.
At least by human standards, shrikes are easily our most brutish songbirds. They are fierce indeed, and have been known to attack birds as large as a Blue Jay. It is always a treat to find a shrike, and they are interesting to observe. Killdeer Plains is obviously a good bet, and the Wilds generally has a shrike or two each winter. The Ohio Ornithological Society hosts their annual Birding at the Wilds event on January 17th. That's always fun, and might produce a shrike. Details will eventually be posted HERE.