This AHY male Common Yellowthroat got no farther than the main north entrance of the Noble Research Center today.
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.
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:
Flight calls abounded last night as I walked the dog at least thrice. Those calls – little tsips! and tseeps! sounded to me like sparrows flowing from the north after three straight days of strong winds blowing from the south. A quick check of Paul Hurtado’s Nexrad radar birds page confirmed a big push in Midwest and the Plains:
Sadly, with that push came two casualties at the Noble Research Center: a Lincoln’s Sparrow (AHY-U with fat = 2) at the southwest alcove and a Common Yellowthroat (AHY-M with fat = 2) at the northwest alcove. (Apologies for the shaky portrait on the Yellowthroat – it looked clear on my phone.)
Although casualties continue to pile up in the west alcoves where I’ve treated several windows with ABC Bird Tape, it has so far appeared to be the untreated panes in those alcoves that are claiming the casualties.
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).
I was in Colorado for a conference last week, and grateful that in my absence the Loss Lab’s Corey Riding and his band of merry building-checking undergraduates covered for me at the Noble Research Center. On 26 September, technician Cooper Sherrill found a Carolina Chickadee at the southeast alcove and a Common Yellowthroat at the northwestern alcove.
The night before last, we had our first real cold front of autumn push through, pushing overnight lows down to the 50s for the first time in months. I expected that yesterday would have been a big flight that would result in window collisions, but last night seems to have ushered in a bigger wave of migrants. I found two at the south face of the Noble Research Center this morning (providing additional evidence that the direction of the prevailing wind has little to do with where on the building birds will end up).
The first was this beautiful Clay-colored Sparrow (fat = 2):
Not far away was this Common Yellowthroat. She was very much alive, and I was happy to see her fly away strongly when I shooed her away from the building.
This bird was an ID challenge: She was very pale on the throat, breast, and belly, but her yellow undertail coverts were quite obvious. That pattern, and the fact that she was pumping her tail a bit, had me thinking she might have been a Palm Warbler. Her pale legs and the lack of white on the tail tips ruled out Palm Warbler, as did her lack of other plumage details that might have strengthened the link. Instead, she looks to me like a hatch year, female Common Yellowthroat, but from the “Interior West” according to Sibley: those are the yellowthroats that can lack yellow throats, unlike the eastern subspecies that should show a bright yellow throat in all plumages.
I found a trapped, yet feisty, male Common Yellowthroat today in the southwest alcove. Here again is a bird that in June doesn’t occur within miles of the central OSU campus. Why would one be on the move through such inhospitable cover at this time of year?
I found the bird on the sidewalk in front of the doors. He was standing and alert when I found him, and he got progressively more chipper as I approached, even calling several times. I will count him as a trapped bird, but not as a casualty.
As I watched and before I was able to herd him away from the alcove, the bird exhibited a behavior that I suspect affects many of my casualties here. Rather than fly headlong into the window, the bird fluttered up against it, unable to determine why it couldn’t simply fly through to where it could be either vegetation through the window or daylight on the other side. I think that some of my casualties are birds that simply exhaust themselves and die from this behavior as opposed to birds that receive immediate head trauma from a more dramatic collision.
Northern Cardinal carcass remains.
There looked to be a House Wren and two Lincoln’s Sparrows hanging around this morning, but I still can’t consider these birds “trapped” if I can’t get close enough to them to effectively herd them away from the building.
I did find a window-killed Lincoln’s Sparrow at a nearby building yesterday, and it seems to have hit the same window that an unfortunate Common Yellowthroat did a few days ago.
This building is the Food and Agricultural Products Center, located just west and across a parking lot from the Noble Research Center. This is a weird little corner of the building that every year claims several birds, even though it seems very protected.
I was worried being out of town yesterday morning that I would miss important data on a mid-September morning that had been foggy and rainy. This morning when I got to the NRC, it was clear that my worry was warranted. There had been a lot of activity at the north entrance since Friday morning. Here’s what was waiting for me today:
1) Live House Wren – very tame, allowing a close approach but apparently not injured.
2) Live Yellow-breasted Chat – this bird is a first for the project.
I was able to steer the chat away from the building so it should be okay. The wren – if it’s the same bird I found last week – might be in trouble, but so far it’s too energetic for me to steer anywhere, and it’s most interested in hiding out in the tiniest shrubs around.
In addition to these two live birds, I found the remains of 3 dead ones:
3) Sora (scavenged) – Identified from these feathers, I can only say that a Sora met it’s end at the building this weekend; I have no way to know if it’s the Sora from Friday that somehow got trapped again. My policy on found scavenged remains is to assume that the bird was scavenged in less than 24 hours, so it’s a day-0 event in this case.
4) Yellow-breasted Chat (scavenged) – These narrow, olive-edged rectices at 84 mm are just the right length, color, shape, and pattern to convince me that they came from a chat. I found them just a few meters away from the live chat. (Day-0 event, as well.)
5) Dickcissel (unscavenged) This Dickcissel has not been touched other than by ants and beetles that’ve started eating away at its back.
And finally . . .
6) Common Yellowthroat (live) – I found this bird in the northwest alcove. As I struggled to get a look at it before it made its way out of the area, I audibly asked “Are you a yellowthroat?” “Tchep!” was the answer.
For folks keeping track, this was one of the busiest days in the history of this project, with three trapped birds and three casualties. In addition, three species were new additions to the casualty list: Sora, Dickcissel, and Yellow-breasted Chat.