28 May 2019 – Yellow-billed Cuckoo

After a bit of a slow start it did not take long to wrack up 20 casualties this spring. Today it was a “day 0” Yellow-billed Cuckoo at the main north entrance, meaning that it hit and was scavenged before I found it. Here again is a reminder of the difference between scavenging and removal: This bird was immediately scavenged, but it will likely be many weeks before all traces of its feathers are gone.

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26 May 2019 – Indigo Bunting

This second-year male Indigo Bunting met its end at the southwestern alcove today.

24 May 2019 – Louisiana Waterthrush

Every day there is a casualty discovered is cause for a twinge of sadness. Some are worse than others, however, especially when our personal biases are affected. My internal monologue on noticing any dead bird is a classic Midwestern ope, but today it escalated to motherf****r! as I got close enough to see what it was lying in front of a glass entry on the northwestern corner of the Noble Research Center. Yep, it was the pinnacle of avian evolution, a Louisiana Waterthrush.

I would be remiss not to mention the unusually rainy, cool spring we’ve enjoyed here in the Southern Plains, and this week flooding has turned deadly. Here in Stillwater, we topped 7″ of rain on Tuesday, with roads and schools closed. But our saturated soils didn’t result from one super storm. Check out these 30-days totals:

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In fact, we’re a solid 20″ above average for the year:

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This is a pattern of rainfall that often washes out waterthrush nests, built along the banks of streams. Having returned at the end of March, it could easily be the case that our local waterthrushes have attempted to nest, and been flooded out, at least three times. Perhaps a scenario like that might explain how a second-year (check out the feather wear) female (she at least attempted nesting – check out the brood patch) Louisiana Waterthrush ends up outside its territory in unfamiliar habitat to die at a window on the 23rd/24th of May? Is this a local movement to find a new territory less prone to flooding and give it another go? Is this a bird that has given up for 2019 and was on her way to molt and prepare for southbound migration while other birds are still streaming north? These intimate details of birds’ lives provide endless fascination for me and, of course, can lead to new and interesting directions for research that can help these birds better survive their forays into human-dominated landscapes.

Besides the feather wear and brood patch, there were a couple of other interesting things about this bird. It had fat in the furcular hollow! Floods don’t keep waterthrushes from foraging well, despite their threat to nests. Still, actually accumulating fat is hormonally influenced, and it strikes me as odd for a bird to accumulate fat outside of migration. This bird also showed obvious trauma to the tip of the bill, indicating a window strike at full speed. I can’t quite tell if the mark on the right pectoralis major is a contusion from collision or the beginning of the progression of brood patch loss. Many questions . . .

23 May 2019 – no casualties but two bonus warblers

The Noble Research Center claimed no new victims overnight, but there was a dead Ovenbird at the Food and Agricultural Products Center this morning, and Eric Duell pointed out a dead Common Yellowthoat on the north side of the Kerr-Drummond complex.

19 May 2019 – European Starling

 

There are baby robins and starlings all over campus now. This starling, sadly, did not survive long out of the nest.

17 May 2019 – no casualties, but a bonus Summer Tanager

There’s a small alcove on a northeast corner of the Food and Agricultural Products Center across a parking lot from the Noble Research Center that often lures birds to their death. Today, it was this second year Summer Tanager.

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14 May 2019 – Red-eyed Vireo

The 405th casualty is just the 3rd Red-eyed Vireo. This one (from the southwestern alcove) was bedraggled, indicating that it hit some time before (or during) the rain and hail that swept through Stillwater ~7:00–9:00 pm last night.

13 May 2019 –Tennessee Warbler, Painted Bunting, and some other stuff

My walk to the Noble Research Center revealed two window-killed birds outside the Food and Agricultural Products building, a male Yellow Warbler and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

I also found remains (wingtips) of the Summer Tanager and Indigo Bunting that were scavenged from the southwestern alcove.

New casualties this morning were a SY male Painted Bunting in the southwestern alcove and a male Tennessee Warbler (9.5g, fat = 1) in the northeastern alcove.

12 May 2019 – Northern Cardinal and Yellow-billed Cuckoo

This morning dawned bright and sunny, but there was a Northern Cardinal in the northwestern corridor and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the northeast corner to dampen my mood.

11 May 2019 – another Summer Tanager (the 400th casualty)

It was a bitter milestone this morning as I encountered the 400th casualty on this project since I began regular monitoring in August of 2009.

Again, the long-term idiosyncrasies of this long-term monitoring have revealed something new. In this case, there have been 4 total Summer Tanagers I’ve recorded as window-kills since 2009. The first was on May 3rd 2013. That’s 6 years ago, and it was 4 years into the project. The last three were May 4th, May 6th, and May 11th of this year. So in one week in the tenth year of a project we’ve turned on its head what we thought we knew about Summer Tanager collision risk here.

7 May 2019 – two Indigo Buntings

Today, there was a second-year male Indigo Bunting in the northwestern alcove and a female in the southwestern alcove.

6 May 2019 – Summer Tanager

This morning was a bit odd in that it’s rare to find window killed Summer Tanagers at the NRC, and that someone had moved yesterday’s Yellow Warbler. Now the warbler and tanager lie together at the main north entrance, and I can only assume that the tanager died very close by. (The Summer Tanager was a second-year male.)

 

5 May 2019 – Yellow Warbler

To me, these window kills are saddest when the victim is an older individual in its prime. Case in point, consider this outstanding male Yellow Warbler from this morning that senselessly met its end at the main north entrance. Note, too how conspicuous these casualties can sometimes be. As soon as I got a glimpse of the north entrance I could tell there was a casualty there.

4 May 2019 – Swainson’s Thrush and Summer Tanager

This morning there was a Swainson’s Thrush – visible from a long way off – in the southwestern alcove. Later in the day, Sirena Lao provided the photos of a female Summer Tanager, also from the southwestern alcove.

 

 

3 May 2019 – Orange-crowned Warbler

The darkness of these photos illustrates how rainy and gloomy we were when this poor Orange-crowned Warbler met its end at the northeastern alcove. This bird was removed/scavenged on 7 May.

2 May 2019 – no casualties, but then yes casualties

There were no new casualties on my survey from about 7:30 this morning, but then the sharp eyes of students Dalton Deshazer, Jake Rowland, and Corey Sage noticed this Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the southwestern alcove. (On my check the next day, the bird had been moved off the sidewalk and was much less conspicuous. It persisted until removal on May 5th.)

As a bonus, Corey Sage provided this photo of a trapped Cedar Waxwing, also at the southwestern entrance, later that afternoon.