There was a big flight of Yellow Warblers this week, culminating in tow individuals –– one trapped and one dead –– at the Noble Research Center. The collision victim was in a weird spot at the southwestern corner.
Ahead of the official official ten-year anniversary of window collision monitoring at the Noble Research Center on August 20th, here’s a recap of my very first post from 7 September, 2009.
Those were heady days, indeed.
Here are some basic things I’ve observed and learned, August 2009–July 2019.
With some occasional help when I’ve been out of town, we surveyed the perimeter of the Noble Research Center for window-collided birds 2,141 times. I’ve generally run surveys every day (usually within about two hours of sunrise) during heavy migration periods in autumn and spring, scaling back to more like weekly surveys during the dead of winter.
Including 4 unidentified passerine remains, at least 414 individuals of 67 species died in window collisions at the Noble Research Center.
The most frequently encountered casualties were:
Tenth is a four-way tie with 11 casualties each for Common Yellowthroat, Orange-crowned Warbler, Song Sparrow, and Yellow Warbler.
The spatial distribution of those casualties looks a bit like this:
Window treatments applied to selected panes in 2016 have, evidently, not contributed to a decline in collisions.
I plan to continue my monitoring at the NRC for as long as I can, and in the next 10 years hope to appreciably reduce the mortality here.
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.
My first Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year showed up at the northwestern alcove today. I do much prefer to see them alive beneath my feeders. . .
Another feathered friend was very much alive, though stunned from a collision in southeastern entrance. He looked a bit shaky when I first found him, but he was actually fairly perky and difficult to catch. As it was chilly in the shade, I took the bird to a sunny spot near my office where he could more safely and quickly recover. Checking on the bird a bit later in the day, it was still there but flying strongly and looking to be recovering.
This bird was a wren of ambiguous affinity. It’s short tail was evocative of Winter Wren, but its plumage was a better match for House Wren. The bob tail might indicate a HY bird, but I didn’t spend much time examining its plumage for aging as my main concern was to make sure it had a safe place to chill out.
Lots of birds on the move this past week but, thankfully, none appears to have met its end at the Noble Research Center. The Palm Warbler – first I’ve ever found on campus – seemed a bit confused but unharmed. It was in the stairwell of the northeast alcove and popped up into the sugar maple tree on my arrival.
It was a bit foggy overnight so perhaps that contributed to the casualties I found today: An AHY male Nashville Warbler in the southwestern alcove (fat = 3) and a Clay-colored Sparrow in the south portico (fat = 2).
The one bright spot was the second Nashville Warbler. It was stunned but alive. On my approach it perked up and flew off strongly.
Well, here we go. Today marks the end of my 9th year conducting spring/summer monitoring for window-killed birds at the Noble Research Center. Tomorrow I begin year 10. Ten years of near daily monitoring of window-killed birds. Here’s a quick 9-year wrap-up:
Top ten (eleven) species most commonly encountered as casualties at this site:
Though they might have come in yesterday (when I didn’t check), there were two birds in the southwestern alcove today: a Tennessee Warbler (AHY-U, fat = 2) and a Painted Bunting (SY-U <probably female>, fat = 2).
There was also a bonus at the Food and Ag Products Center: a window-killed Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a trapped Black-and-white Warbler. The warbler flew off fine as I approached.
I found a trapped Clay-colored Sparrow today in the southwestern alcove. Upon release in the relative safety of a nearby shrub, the bird flew off another 5m or so to another shrub, where it perched strongly.
Less lucky was the Magnolia Warbler I found in the northwest alcove. This bird, a female with fat = 3, was just the second of this species documented on this project.
The Indigo Bunting has been removed – May 12 – but the Painted Bunting and Yellow Warbler remain.
The odd thing today was that I found a dead Swainson’s Thrush along the northern wall. This might be the first casualty on this side of the building since monitoring began in August 2009. I then found a second – and alive! – Swainson’s Thrush in the southwestern alcove. The bird was feisty in the hand and perched strongly when I placed it in a nearby shrub.
Since Monday night, we seem to have received at least 5 inches of rain here in Stillwater. That’s great as I’ve been lamenting the lack of even clouds for a few weeks. The system that brought the rain might have kept birds bottled up to our north because once it cleared last night (Wed.) there was one heck of a flight.
Of course, attempts to correlate window collision mortality with big radar echoes of migrating birds are fraught with confirmation bias. There are plenty of big flights that result in no dead birds on my rounds, and I’m a lot more likely to check “last night’s radar” on a morning when I find multiple casualties. Today was one of those days.
I walked to the Noble Research Center on a route that took me past the long row of windows on the southern side of the Food and Agricultural Products Building, aka, FAPC. This is just across a parking lot from the NRC and I’ve made several incidental finds there. Today, these “bonus birds” numbered three: an Ovenbird, a Common Yellowthroat (collected) and, around the corner, a female Indigo Bunting that had been there for at least a few days. So before I even made it to the NRC, I encountered 3 window-killed birds.
The yellowthroat was an apparent AHY-male, with fat = 2 and weighing in at 12 g.
At the NRC was another surprise. Surprisingly, after all these years and considering how common these birds are as migrants and wintering residents, I found the project’s first Savannah Sparrow, in the northwest alcove.
There was also a trapped Common Yellowthroat at the main north entrance and another Savannah sparrow flitting around – through not trapped – just west of the southern portico entrance. The Savannah Sparrow was AHY-U, weighing 18g with a fat score = 2.
As I’m about to head out for a conference this week, spring and summer monitoring comes to a close. I’ll begin August 2017 the 9th consecutive year of (mostly) daily monitoring for window casualties at the Noble Research Center on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA.
It’s been a busy spring.
Beginning Mar 1st, here’s what has turned up at the Noble Research Center.
That’s 28 individuals of 14 species, and damn, that is disheartening.
On the plus side, my commitment to checking almost every day has put me in position to save a few birds by getting them safely away from the building and taking them someplace secure to rest and recuperate for a bit. I can’t guarantee that all 6 of these survived the ordeal, but they seemed to be in good shape when I last saw them:
With special guest stars James O’Connell and David Mallen, today’s survey turned up a male Indigo Bunting and a trapped Yellow Warbler at the main north entrance. (No photo of the warbler; it was a male.)
Let’s take a closer look at that Indigo Bunting:
The multiple obvious molt limits on this bird illustrate two generations of feathers on the same individual, some of which grew in last summer and some which have come in quite recently. This confirms the age of the bird as second year (SY).
No casualties yet, but I’m up to the 3rd trapped bird of the new year: a Song Sparrow in the northwest alcove. This one was stunned – or exhausted – but before I could get any closer than about 3m it flew away strongly – good sign!
This bird was likely riding a wave of migration that really lit up the radar last night (as linked from Paul Hurtado’s birding page). Check out the big blue blobs in Oklahoma from a little after 11 pm last night:
Keep your eye on that slug of rain and storms (the green, yellow, and red) in the OK Panhandle, though.
Now check out the line of rain and storms that moved in overnight and set up shop on the Kansas border. This is from a bit before 6:00 am, and nobody moving north through our state kept on moving through that! This is a classic setup for a “fallout” of birds. More storms today followed by strong north winds tomorrow will likely keep some staging migrants around for a few more days.
I found this rather early fellow right in front of the doorway to the southeast alcove this morning. He’s a gorgeous, ASY male Common Yellowthroat with fat score = 1. He was dazed enough that I caught him but alert and feisty in the hand, and he perched well when I moved him to a safe spot. In addition to being one of history’s all-time great yellowthroats, he has the distinction of being the 100th “trapped” bird that I’ve been able to move or shoo away from the Noble Research Center. If even one of them recovered enough to fly on and live out its life then every one of these walks around the NRC has been worth it!
Unfortunately, something went screwy with my camera and this is the only surviving photo:
I found a trapped Grasshopper Sparrow at the main North entrance to the NRC today, and then a second dead bird at the southeastern alcove. The trapped bird took quite a bit of effort to eventually guide away from the building, but the time was worth it if I was able to keep it from ending up like its comrade.
So far, it’s exclusively been the southwestern alcove causing the problems this fall. That’s a bit ironic and potentially problematic, as I’ve completed more window treatments there than anywhere else on the building. However, none of the four birds that has ended up there has been found in front of a treated window, leaving open the suggestion that the treated windows have not cause any casualties, even if casualties have occurred at the partially treated alcove.
This morning, I found the first bird actually in front of a treated window pane: a Northern Waterthrush. The hopeful difference is that this bird was ALIVE.
Above right – Yep, that little white dot in the photo on the right is waterthrush splay in front of the window where I first encountered the bird.