25 October 2015 – 6 sparrows of 4 species

A crisp and cool night following a home football game made for lots of birds on the move and, evidently, quite a few coming into campus.  I found this morning 3 dead Lincoln’s Sparrows: southwest alcove, southwest peninsula, and southern portico. I found a dead Grasshopper Sparrow at the northwest alcove.

Trapped birds consisted of a Song Sparrow that I pushed away from the southwest alcove, and a Chipping Sparrow in the rafters of the southern portico, apparently unable to figure out that flying down was the key to getting out.

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4 October 2015 – Clay-colored Sparrow

Autumn arrived with a thud for this poor Clay-colored Sparrow today.  It was one of the fattest of these little sparrows I’ve ever seen (easily a 3 on my 0–3 scale), which was impressive for a youngster:  HY-U.

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19 September 2015 – Common Yellowthroat and trapped warblers

There were at least three warblers trapped at the northern entrance this morning.  They were frisky enough that I could neither catch them or get a good look at them. I was thinking Common Yellowthroat for at least one of them.  At the south entrance portico, Corey Riding reported a dead Common Yellowthroat (no photo).

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16 September 2015 – Yellow Warbler

I was not able to check the NRC yesterday (9/15), but that’s when I think this Yellow Warbler actually came in and met its end in the northwestern alcove.  I think it’s a HY male; fat = 2. I left the bird in place for a scavenging trial.

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13 September 2015 – Nashville Warbler

Today I found a window-killed Nashville Warbler in the southwestern alcove.  The brownish cast to the upperparts and tapered rectrices suggest a HY bird, sex undetermined.  Fat = 2.  I have included a radar image of last night’s flight on a rare evening that felt a lot more like October than September.

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20 August 2015 – Yellow Warbler

Yesterday’s powerful cold front gave us this morning’s Octoberish morning, and a big flight of migrants last night. Check out this explosion of migrants in the Plains from around 10:30 last night:

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At least one of those migrants, a HY-U (prob female) Yellow Warbler, made it no farther than Stillwater last night.  She was in great shape with fat = 2.

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5 October 2013 – Grasshopper and Lincoln’s sparrow

We’ve flirted with one or two cold fronts so far this season, but last night’s was by far the most powerful.  It was part of a storm system that brought tornadoes to Nebraska and more than a foot of snow to the Black Hills.  While we won’t see any flurries today, the breezy 50s out there right now are a huge contrast to the breezy 90s from yesterday afternoon.  Boom.  It’s autumn now.

I assumed there’d be a good number of birds moving either ahead of or just behind this front.  I was right, and in a moment I’ll illustrate that the answer was “behind”.

This morning I weaved my way among the bundled sports fans preparing for a crisp day of tailgating and football, and found a Grasshopper Sparrow at the main north entrance and a Lincoln’s Sparrow at the northwestern alcove.  This was, as everyone before them, a sad end to these two birds, the official 149th and 150th casualties I’ve documented at the Noble Research Center since August of 2009.  Both birds were in immaculate condition, fresh and dry, with fat scores of 3 (Grasshopper) and 1 (Lincoln’s).

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The birds’ great condition made it plainly clear that they were traveling behind the cold front that passed through around 2:00 am with thunderstorms, heavy rain, and wind.  NEXRAD radar images from last night suggest that these two birds were part of a huge movement through the Plains.  Here’s a sample:

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The cold front and its line of storms are clearly visible on this image from about 9:20 last night, but note the heavy movement of birds behind the front in Kansas.

 

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By about 1:00 am the storms were finally getting to us in Stillwater, with the heavy flight continuing behind the front.

 

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Now by almost 7:00 am, the storms are well to our east, but that big movement of birds in Kansas has now shifted south, and we see a big movement in Oklahoma. At this point, it is still dark in Stillwater.

 

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By about 8:00 am the movement of migrants has fallen apart as birds on the move overnight have sought a place to put down by daylight. I checked the NRC just after 8:30 am.

So the radar composites seem to confirm my supposition that birds were moving behind this front and put down wherever they could once daylight dawned.  As if the two birds I found dead weren’t enough, the tiny strip of juniper hedge on the north side of the NRC held a mixed species flock of probably 50 birds this morning.  They looked to be Grasshopper, Lincoln’s, and Clay-colored sparrows, plus at least one warbler that looked like it was probably Orange-crowned.