“Just the place for a shrike!” the Hartyman cried,
As he gathered his crew with care
He welcomed them warmly, with donuts he plied
The women and men gathered there
The crew was complete: it included a Jim,
A Jen, a John, and alas,
A snake-seeking woman full of humor and Grace
And a man made entirely of Glass
The Hartyman they all praised to the skies
Such an outfit – bold kerchief and hat
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
For the shrike he would go to the mat!
He brought a large map representing Midewin,
And pointed out where they should hike
And the crew were much pleased to spend the whole day in
Search of the elusive shrike.
Some went to the west of Route 66
Some went to the east with the bison
All tucked in their socks to keep out the ticks
And kept hydrated under the high sun.
Before they departed, the Hartyman said,
“Come, listen, my friends, hear me speak
Do not be deceived, do not be misled
By false feathers or uncrossed beak.”
“There are only five unmistakable marks
To distinguish a shrike from a mockingbird:
The beak and the plumage, the song and the nest
The fifth trait well known to a bird nerd.”
“The beak is so big with a dangerous hook
The plumage is black, grey and white
The nest made of sticks with a haphazard look
The song more a buzz than polite.”
“The other key, unmistakable trait
Of the shrike, should you care to inquire,
Is impaling its prey, like fisherman bait,
On Osage or’nge thorns or barbed wire.”
All day they did search in the grasslands and bushes
They found lots of warblers and wrens
They saw a few thrashers and sparrows and thrushes
Some sandhills and meadowlark friends.
Two weeks later, as well, they searched anew,
In bunker fields and in the prairie
The fact that they found, of shrikes, far too few
Was awfully depressingly scary
The Hartyman noticed his crew spirit low,
And repeated in musical tone
Some jokes he had kept for a season of woe—
But the crew would do nothing but groan.
“What kind of birds never rise from their knees?”
“Birds of prey,” he said with a grin.
“But seriously, folks, I’m begging you please
Don’t give up on this place called Midewin.”
“Where else can you find so much land to restore
So much prairie and shrubland, and hark!
We restore this place for the sake of all birds
Lest they go the way of the poor snark.”
And so ends our tale with an invite for you
To come to Midewin and quest
For bison and shrikes and other things, too
For peace, joy and healing and rest.