Today was one of those “just when I think I have this figured out” days.
As I was rounding the west perimeter of the Noble Research Center between the southwest and northwest alcoves, some feathers caught my eye up against the brick side of the building. This is the first time (in nearly 8 years) I found a bird at this spot and it was also pretty clearly one new to the study: a bright orange and black Baltimore Oriole, or at least a nice pile of feather remnants from what had lately been an adult male (ASY) Baltimore Oriole.
Though for consistency’s sake I’ll record that spot on the building as the location of collision, I in fact don’t know where the bird hit. All I know is that a predator (and very likely a cat based on the neatly sheared primaries) appears to have eaten said oriole at that spot.
Confirming Baltimore Oriole as the source of the wing.
Around the corner and into the northwest alcove, I found the remnants of a scavenged adult Mourning Dove. Here again was a bird in a very odd location. Strangely enough, the bird was in the exact location (beneath an ornamental buttonbush) where collaborator and OSU PhD student Corey Riding had the week before left a Cedar Waxwing carcass for a scavenging trial. Corey, however, had left neither a dove, an oriole, nor anything else at that spot since the waxwing. Puzzling for sure . . .
Finally, there was another bird at the end of the alcove in front of one of the untreated panes. Here was another oddity – a House Wren.
I found a somewhat stunned House Wren on the west side of the NRC today. The little wren seemed to be in pretty good shape except that its right eyelid was closed. It wasn’t panting or looking otherwise distressed as I walked up and crouched down next to it. As I tried to catch the bird, it quickly popped up and landed on my right knee. Then I tried to slowly grab it from behind but it spooked and flew to my left knee. At this point, the little sprite had fully endeared itself to me. I tried one more time to grab it and move it someplace more protected, but this time it zipped away from me and flew down one of the west alcoves. I feared the worst (i.e., that it had flown right into a window), but it must have found a safe spot because it wasn’t waiting for me limp beneath a window.
For now, this House Wren has survived its encounter with the NRC, and I won’t count it as a casualty. I’ll be a bit extra sad if I happen upon some wren feathers tomorrow morning . . .
Here is just a quick summary of casualties at the Noble Research Center from July through December 2010:
Very fat Mourning Warbler that never made it to the wintering grounds.
I detected 25 individuals of at least 16 species among the casualties. The complete list:
grasshopper sparrow – 4
ruby-throated hummingbird – 2
mourning warbler – 2
song sparrow – 2
Lincoln’s sparrow – 2
unidentified passerine (1 warbler, 1 sparrow) – 2
black-and-white warbler – 1
Carolina wren – 1
mourning dove (juv) – 1
least flycatcher – 1
common yellowthroat – 1
black-throated green warbler – 1
brown thrasher – 1
house wren – 1
red-breasted nuthatch – 1
white-throated sparrow – 1
field sparrow – 1
Because I was able to get to the NRC earlier each day during autumn than practical in 2009, I encountered more individuals that were stunned and “trapped” by the building for some time period without obvious mortal injury. Most of these birds are presumed to have eventually moved on, but it is quite likely that the house wren and one of the Lincoln’s sparrows on the “stunned” list were unsuccessful in their respective bids to escape from the confusion of the NRC, and are listed above. The bat represents the first mammalian “capture” by the NRC:
Lincoln’s sparrow – 5 (4 in one flock)
house wren – 1
common yellowthroat – 1
Nashville warbler – 1
grasshopper sparrow – 1
dark-eyed junco – 1
It’s dark when migrants like this Lincoln’s sparrow drop out of the sky and try to find a good spot in which to rest for the day. I’m beginning to think that most collisions are occurring in that last hour before sunrise.