23 May 2011 – Cassin’s Sparrow

Before I started this blog in the late summer of 2009, I had spent several months searching for window-killed birds at the Noble Research Center during the spring of 2009.  The diversity of species I found spurred me to take a closer look into the phenomenon here on campus, and it was an out-of-range Cassin’s Sparrow in the spring of 2009 that was influential in my decision to commit to regular monitoring.

Cassin’s extends its range north in the breeding season, and it can be locally common in sandy rangelands of western Oklahoma, especially in the Panhandle.  That’s a 3-hour drive west of here, so any Cassin’s that shows up in Payne County is noteworthy.

Today, just about two years since I first found a Cassin’s at the NRC, I found another one. Cassin’s have been reported elsewhere in the state over the last few days, so perhaps the birds are dispersing widely this year to literally find greener pastures than in the drought-stricken core of their West Texas range.

I did not collect the bird for the Collection of Vertebrates because the ants had already ripped open most of the skin across the back and it lost many contour feathers while I examined it.  Instead I collected these three outer rectrices:

I was unable to determine age, so this one is an AHY with fat = 0.

I plan to leave the bird in place to contribute to my assessment of scavenging rate.

18 May 2011 – no casualties, but two visitors

We had a line of storms come through last night around 2:00 am that I thought might have the chance to drop out some migrants.  As if on cue, there was something unusual at the NRC this morning: a Marsh Wren.  The bird was very much alive (perhaps a bit stunned), and I herded it away from the building toward a line of shrubs that would provide cover if it needed to stick around for a while.

Also, huddled at the base of one of the windows was a recently fledged Mourning Dove.  This bird too seemed to be in fine shape.