30 September 2012 – Clay-colored Sparrow and Orange-crowned Warbler

On a cloudy morning after a nighttime football game that shone bright lights on low clouds, there were birds left behind at the Noble Research Center.  The first I found was this hatch-year Clay-colored Sparrow (fat = 2):

Then there were 3-4 birds trapped around the north entrance, including a House Wren.  Is this the same little guy hanging around for weeks?

There was an obviously stunned Orange-crowned Warbler as well.  The bird was sitting low and unresponsive, but it perked up when I picked it up.

The bird looks okay above.  Had it remained this way I would’ve counted it as merely “trapped”.  When I set it down, however, the bird did not fly away and it actually had trouble standing.  For cases like this – in which a trapped bird has trouble standing – my policy is to consider the bird as a casualty.  I’ll be interested in checking tomorrow to see if my suspicions are correct.

 

29 September 2012 – Carolina Chickadee

I’ve been at this so long and always expecting migrants that I’m puzzled when a resident species shows up at a window.  Today it was another Carolina Chickadee.  The bird had a goodly amount of fat laid down (a 2, by my estimation) and was in heavy body molt.

28 September 2012: Lincoln’s Sparrow and Whip-poor-will

This morning, this Lincoln’s Sparrow was the unfortunate first victim of the season on the south side of the building.  This individual was beautiful and fresh, with a fat score  = 3.


Today I also found the scavenged remnants (two tail feathers and a few contour feathers) of the 42nd species I’ve been able to confirm as a casualty at the Noble Research Center since 2009: an Eastern Whip-poor-will.

The two rectrices (tail feathers) at left are diagnostic for an adult (AHY) female Whip-poor-will, a first for the study.

Whip-poor-will is a surprising find for the study – to say the least.  In my time in Oklahoma, I’ve yet to hear a Whip-poor-will.  We seem to be all Chuck-wills-widows around here, and Whips seem to be confined to our easternmost counties.  Here’s an eBird map for Whip reports in the month of September for the past 10 years:

 

26 September 2012 – trapped Yellowthroat

(I neglected to make an update yesterday.  I did check on Sep. 25, and found no casualties.)

No casualties this morning, but there was a male Common Yellowthroat trapped by the north entrance.  He was a bit dazed, but he flew off strongly and I think I was able to effectively herd him away from the building.

21 September 2012 – Clay-colored Sparrow and Black-and-white Warbler

The north entrance and northwest alcoves were deadly again last night.  This time the victims were an ASY female Black-and-white Warbler and an AHY Clay-colored Sparrow.  The Dickcissel and Lincoln’s Sparrow carcasses have been removed.

Clay-colored Sparrow at the northwest alcove

Female Black-and-white Warbler at the north entrance.

Casualties piling up at the Noble Research Center

 

 

19 September 2012 – Lincoln’s Sparrow

Though we’ll top out around 87 F today, autumn must be in the air because today I found my first Lincoln’s Sparrow on the ground.  I left the bird in place, just opposite the Dickcissel.

It looked like two House Wrens, a Grasshopper Sparrow, and at least one other passerine were still hanging around the north entrance to the NRC, but I haven’t added these birds to the “trapped” list just yet (other than the one House Wren, that is).

17 September 2012 – another Dickcissel and a Yellow Warbler

The House Wren is still hanging around, but still looks unharmed.  That’s unlike the remains of this Yellow Warbler and this unfortunate Dickcissel.  The Dickcissel was a HY female with a fat score = 3.

16 September 2012 – strange bedfellows, with three new to the study

I was worried being out of town yesterday morning that I would miss important data on a mid-September morning that had been foggy and rainy.  This morning when I got to the NRC, it was clear that my worry was warranted.  There had been a lot of activity at the north entrance since Friday morning.  Here’s what was waiting for me today:

1) Live House Wren – very tame, allowing a close approach but apparently not injured.

2) Live Yellow-breasted Chat – this bird is a first for the project.

I was able to steer the chat away from the building so it should be okay.  The wren – if it’s the same bird I found last week – might be in trouble, but so far it’s too energetic for me to steer anywhere, and it’s most interested in hiding out in the tiniest shrubs around.

In addition to these two live birds, I found the remains of 3 dead ones:

3) Sora (scavenged) – Identified from these feathers, I can only say that a Sora met it’s end at the building this weekend; I have no way to know if it’s the Sora from Friday that somehow got trapped again.  My policy on found scavenged remains is to assume that the bird was scavenged in less than 24 hours, so it’s a day-0 event in this case.

4) Yellow-breasted Chat (scavenged) – These narrow, olive-edged rectices at 84 mm are just the right length, color, shape, and pattern to convince me that they came from a chat.  I found them just a few meters away from the live chat.  (Day-0 event, as well.)

5) Dickcissel (unscavenged) This Dickcissel has not been touched other than by ants and beetles that’ve started eating away at its back.

And finally . . .

6) Common Yellowthroat (live) – I found this bird in the northwest alcove.  As I struggled to get a look at it before it made its way out of the area, I audibly asked “Are you a yellowthroat?”  “Tchep!” was the answer.

 

For folks keeping track, this was one of the busiest days in the history of this project, with three trapped birds and three casualties.  In addition, three species were new additions to the casualty list:  Sora, Dickcissel, and Yellow-breasted Chat.

14 September – Trapped Sora!

First things first – the cheeseburger is gone.  Two days ago it was apparently swiped by a lawnmower but still remained (in two pieces) conspicuous on the sidewalk.  This morning it was gone.  So after about 2 weeks, a delicious-looking, fresh cheeseburger patty has finally been snatched up by something.

Next we had another highly unusual occurrence last night – rain!  Beginning around noon yesterday to just some drizzle this morning at 8 am, we’ve finally had a decent, persistent rain here in Stillwater.  We managed one or two storms this summer, but by my reckoning our last actual rainy day was June 2nd.

One surprise waiting for me this misty morning in the bushes by the north entrance was a Sora, the first for the project.  Soras are long-distance migrants, and they often show up in studies of collision mortality; this one was my first, however.  Here’s where Soras tend to be, year ’round:

Here’s where they’ve been reported recently:

Here’s where one was this morning:

The bird was in great shape.  I steered it away from the building and it flushed off to the left and landed near a nearby exterior wall.  I flushed it again and this time it gained altitude, flew over the top of the NRC and was winging its way south again when it flew out of my line of sight.  Right now, I don’t know if it even made it off campus, but I at least was able to “free” it from the NRC.

6 September 2012 – no casualties but a persistent cheesburger

Okay, well that little warbler keeps hanging around.  It seems in good health; I even watched it eat an insect of some kind yesterday.  So it’s hanging around the north side of the NRC, but it’s at least finding some food and doesn’t appear at all stunned.  In fact, it’s in such good shape that’s one of the reasons I’ve been unsuccessful in herding it away from the building.

The more interesting story this week concerns scavenging, or the lack thereof.  I’ve written before about how I think efforts to determine the scavenging rate at building and tower studies are misguided.  First, there is no one rate.  It changes all the time and can go from near 0% to near 100% if one raccoon or rat or crow or cat figures out that fresh birds are to found at some building.  I’ve had birds I left out that lasted for months and birds that lasted less than a day.  Removal rate is really variable.

The other problem I have with removal rates is that the slight increase in precision of mortality estimates we get from factoring in scavenging or removal rates just begs the question.  Why do we care to know more precisely the number of birds that died at this spot?  No one has been able to provide an answer for me.

So this week it’s been fun to consider the cheeseburger, specifically the one that I found Sunday morning.  Clearly, it had fallen off of someone’s bun the night before during a tailgate party for our opening football game.  It was sitting there on the sidewalk, right in front of one of the entrances to the NRC.  It was so fresh that it actually made me a little hungry.  And it was completely untouched for 4 days.  Yesterday, I noticed that it had been nibbled on and moved from its original location, but it’s still there.  There is an unscavenged cheeseburger that has been sitting out in the open for 5 days on a college campus with daily clean-up crews scouring campus, flocks of Great-tailed Grackles, starlings, rats, opossums, raccoons, skunks, cats, etc.  I’ll keep you posted on it.