A powerful cold front with rotating bands of heavy rain moved into the Plains this weekend, leaving Stillwater waterlogged with nearly 6″ of rain. Snow accumulated in the Panhandle and, here in central Oklahoma, icy winds from the South kept temps from rising much higher than the low 50s F.
Several of us got to experience this weird watery weather all day long, as we braved those elements to participate in the Audubon Birdathon Big Day. Bands (squalls, really) of cold rain and occasional sleet swept through every 30 minutes or so throughout the day. It was cold, it was wet, and the Cimarron filled its banks and then some. Shorebirding was excellent, but the birds were in flooded fields as there certainly wasn’t any exposed mudflat for foraging.
We ended the day with a quite respectable 126 species, but it was a tough day for many of these birds. There were a few grim reminders that hard spring weather can rapidly turn deadly:
I’d been following this Mourning Dove that had nested in last year’s robin’s nest near the main north entrance of the Noble Research Center:
That sturdy adobe nest blew out of its tree in the wee morning hours of 4/29, and mama Mourning Dove wasn’t quite ready to give up on her eggs in the afternoon.
We found 14 (!) Soras at one site on the 30th, and a few days later I found this unfortunate one that died in a window collision at Eagle Heights Baptist Church:
The saddest case, however, had to be this one: Carolina Chickadees in one of my nest boxes were trying to fledge during that horrible weather on the 30th. A few of them made it – or at least made it outside the box and were promptly snatched up by my local Cooper’s Hawks – but at least one did not. A few days later, I checked the box to find these contents – a dead nestling and one of its parents, presumably the mother. Near as I can tell, the adult was in the box brooding the youngster and they both succumbed to the elements (or were killed but not retrieved by the Coops). I’ll never know the real cause of death, but either directly or indirectly, the rain squalls of Apr. 30th seem to have played a role.