7 October 2019 – Two House Wrens and still learning new things

The two House Wrens I found this morning (one at the main north entrance and one in the northwestern alcove) were the 3rd and 4th casualties since August. I had only found 3 prior to August 2019.

August 2009–July 2019: 3 House Wrens

August 2019–October 2019: 4 House Wrens

3 October 2019 – Common Yellowthroat

This AHY male Common Yellowthroat got no farther than the main north entrance of the Noble Research Center today.

29 September 2019 – Lincoln’s Sparrow

A sad sign of autumn in Stillwater, Oklahoma: I found the first window-killed Lincoln’s Sparrow of the fall. I did not check yesterday (Sep. 28) but that’s probably when this collision occurred.

27 September 2019 – Another House Wren and Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Today there was a House Wren in the southeastern alcove and an immature Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the main north entrance.

24 September 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Nashville Warbler; plus bonus birds

Birds on the move captured on Nexrad radar tell an important story on the evening of Sep. 23 to the morning of Sep. 24. First, watch migration blow up after local sunrise in the eastern US, and progress to the west.

As the night wore on, storms began to flare up in Oklahoma. Here in Stillwater those storms hit between 1:30 and 2:00 am on Sep. 24. As the storms expand, migration stalls: Birds put down to avoid the storms and for people on the ground, that’s a fallout.

Was there evidence of this fallout on the ground?

Well, there was a bonus Canada Warbler in that troublesome northeastern alcove of the Food and Agricultural Products Center. (This was in addition to a Mourning Warbler and a Wilson’s Warbler I found there on Sep. 21.)

There was a big flight of Nashville Warbler in Stillwater, too. Twelve were reported from Couch Park. I found one in the southwestern alcove and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the northeastern alcove.

 

23 September 2019 – House Wren and Ruby-throated Hummingbird

This morning there was a House Wren at the main north entrance and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the southwestern alcove.

15 September 2019 – Prothonotary Warbler

Proof that even 10 years of monitoring cannot make us immune to surprises, today I found a new species for the study: an AHY male Prothonotary Warbler at the main north entrance of the Noble Research Center. This is the 68th species recorded as a victim there since August 2009.

 

14 September 2019 – two Yellow Warblers

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.

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 6.54.46 PM.png

8 September 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The 40th casualty of 2019 indicates another unusually deadly year at the Noble Research Center on the campus of Oklahoma State University here in Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA. The fact that we’ve hit that benchmark in early September is especially disheartening. This hummingbird at the main north entrance earned the sad distinction of being number 40.

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 1.39.10 PM

4 September 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

To clarify, it was indeed 4 September that this Ruby-throated Hummingbird met its end beneath the south portico.

29 August 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler

Tough morning with three casualties at the Noble Research Center: there was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the southwestern alcove and flanking Wilson’s and Yellow warblers at the main north entrance.

27 August 2019 – Mourning Dove

I found an immature Mourning Dove at the northwestern alcove this morning.

25 August 2019 – Yellow Warbler

There was a male Yellow Warbler at the southwestern alcove today.

23 August 2019 – Indigo Bunting and Mourning Warbler

As storms rolled through overnight, I assumed I might find a casualty this morning. There were two: a completely rain-soaked female Indigo Bunting in the southwestern alcove and a completely dry and fluffy Mourning Warbler at the south entrance under the rain protection provided by the portico’s overhanging roof. The latter was an AHY male with fat = 3.

18 August 2019 – Painted Bunting

I found another Painted Bunting this morning, this time in the southwestern alcove. This one looked to be a second-year female with a still-evident brood patch.

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 2.29.34 PM

15 August 2019 – Painted Bunting

I did not do a survey yesterday (14th), but this Painted Bunting at the main north entrance looked as if it had been in place since at least yesterday morning. Nonetheless, it will be recorded as a casualty of the 15th.

13 August 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Found a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the main north entrance this morning.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 2.30.08 PM.png

19 July 2019 – Two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

I was out of town this week and grateful to Nikolai Starzak and Sam Cady who alerted me to what look to be a couple more unfortunate victims of early fall migration. Both were found at the southwestern alcove.

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 6.02.08 PM.png

9 July 2019 – Painted Bunting

This AHY female Painted Bunting in post-breeding condition (dried-up brood patch) met her end at the main north entrance, and was partially obscured in some bushes. This is why I don’t just check the ground; I look everywhere a bird body could end up.

Two migrants to kick off the second week of July is not what I’d call a good sign. So far, I’ve already documented 23 casualties in 2019.

Painted Bunting is the 3rd most abundant casualty on my list (26 individuals over 10 years). Only Ruby-throated Hummingbird (34) and Lincoln’s Sparrow (51) have been more often found at this site.

8 July 2019 – Louisiana Waterthrush

Although I consider July to be spring/summer, today’s casualty screams fall migrant. I was saddened this morning to find the pinnacle of avian evolution, Louisiana Waterthrush, at the far northwestern corner of the Noble Research Center.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 1.13.54 PM.png

This bird looked pretty good on the outside, but it was pretty rank. It’s Monday and the bird came in at some point between Friday afternoon and this morning. The relatively bob-tail has me thinking that it might be a HY bird, but I’m not sure.

31 May 2019 – Carolina Chickadee

Heading into June and, as I’ve seen in previous years, there is evidence of resident birds dispersing in late spring. Here is another Carolina Chickadee, and another female with a brood patch, that apparently met her end during a bout of post-breeding dispersal.

5 November 2018 – a pile of feathers and fruits

In a corner of the main north entrance to the Noble Research Center, I encountered this mystery today:

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 11.06.27 AM.png

And I’m all like:

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 11.33.29 AM.png

So let’s get to work on this.

First, this wasn’t here on Nov. 3 (Saturday), I did not check yesterday (Sunday), and when I found it today (Monday, the 5th) it had already been scavenged. I count examples like these as scavenging/removal on day 0.

Okay, so there’s a feather pile and a fruit pile. The fruit pile is on top of the feathers. The fruits show no signs of digestion, other than some of them having been opened and the pits are exposed. There is a single large pit inside a small fruit that is round and black with a highly glossy finish.

After much reading, comparing, consulting, etc., I’m pretty well convinced that these are chokecherries, Prunus virginiana.

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 11.21.39 AM

Paul Wray photo, Iowa State University

My guess? I think our bird gorged itself on chokecherries before undertaking a migratory flight that, sadly, ended at a stupid window. The scavenger burst the bulging crop of this poor bird but had no interest in the fruits (in turn, feeding my opinion on the scavenger). So the remnants of this event are a pile of feathers and a pile of chokecherries.

Ah yes – the scavenger!

Well, we know that on campus we have skunks, foxes, opossums, raccoons, and feral cats as the most likely scavengers. The most likely of those to turn up its nose at a pile of chokecherries? I’d say cat. A cat scavenger would also be pretty well supported by the clean shearing of the flight feathers from the wings, visible here:

So what’s the bird? Well it’s clearly a meadowlark, but whether Eastern or Western takes some additional work. As with the fruits, I’ve spent a lot of time reading, consulting, and comparing. Perhaps the best resource for this task was a blog post from Kevin McGowan ca. 2000. (I also couldn’t get the USFWS Feather Atlas to load.)

Everyone knows that Western Meadowlark shows a yellow malar and in Eastern Meadowlark this is whitish. Without the bird’s head this character was of no use to me, however. In fact, there were just three feathers in the pile showing any yellow at all. Two other character differences are more relevant. First, both species have white outer tail feathers, but on Eastern the outer two are fully white and the third is mostly white. On Western the white is less extensive and even the outermost feather isn’t always fully white. In addition, Western looks paler overall than does Eastern, with the pattern on its tail and in the folded wings over the back appearing lighter brown/gray with blackish stripes. On Eastern, those same areas are darker brown with thicker blackish stripes often joined at the center of the feather creating a fern-like shape instead of distinct stripes. What do you think of these?

I’m leaning toward Western Meadowlark as the original owner of these feathers.

So I’m reporting today a pile of feathers that I think was Western Meadowlark, scavenged by a mammal I think was a cat, and that the cat showed no interest in what I think was a pile of chokecherries in what I think was the crop of the meadowlark.

Challenges, thoughts, etc? I welcome any and all!

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 11.27.50 AM

3 November 2018 – Dark-eyed Junco

This particular junco seemed big to me, with fascinating white wingbars and an apparent extra white tail. These characters strongly make me suspect that this is one of the White-winged race of Dark-eyed Junco from the Black Hills of South Dakota.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.45.27 PM

26 October 2018 – Chipping Sparrow and trapped Lincoln’s Sparrow

Amazing that this was just the third Chipping Sparrow I’ve found in 9 years of window collision monitoring.

The Lincoln’s Sparrow was in the portico, flew west and took a sharp right, only to get re-trapped.

22 October 2018 – White-throated Sparrow plus a bonus Song Sparrow

This morning I found another White-throated Sparrow. In the last two days, the number of this species I’ve found since 2009 has doubled from two to four.  We’ve also reached a yearly milestone with now 50 casualties for 2018.

 

For a bit of added sadness, I also happened upon this Song Sparrow at the Kerr-Drummond complex.

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 4.52.03 PM

21 October 2018 – White-throated Sparrow

For only the third time since 2009 I found a window-killed White-throated Sparrow at the Noble Research Center.

19 October 2018 – Lincoln’s Sparrow, plus another Lincoln’s Sparrow

I found two Lincoln’s Sparrow victims today, both in somewhat odd places. At the Noble Research Center, one met its end at the door leading out to the eastern courtyard. This might be only the 2nd or 3rd victim in the courtyard since 2009.

I also occasionally check for window collision victims at the Food and Agricultural Products Center just to the west across the parking lot and Monroe St. This morning there was a Lincoln’s Sparrow in a tiny alcove where I’ve found birds in the past. This one I noticed by looking to my right as I drove down the street this morning.

18 October 2018 – Lincoln’s Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, and Nashville Warbler

Tough week here on campus as the casualties pile up.

Today, the northeast alcove had a Lincoln’s Sparrow and the project’s first Hermit Thrush. This now make casualties confirmed for 65 species at the Noble Research Center. The main north entrance claimed a Nashville Warbler, too.

 

Sex was undetermined for all three, but the Nashville Warbler was probably a female. The thrush and warbler looked to be after hatch year, while the sparrow was a hatch year bird. Thrush and sparrow had some fat lain down (I marked each a “one”), but I couldn’t find any fat on the warbler.

Nashville Warbler: 8.0 g

Lincoln’s Sparrow: 15.5 g

Hermit Thrush: 27.0 g

 

 

 

17 October 2018 – four Lincoln’s Sparrows

It was one of those tough days to be a Lincoln’s Sparrow on campus today. There were dead birds at the main north entrance and on the south portico. I examined the south portico bird which looked to be HY-U, with fat = 3. There were two more trapped Lincoln’s Sparrows I flushed from the main north entrance. They flew away strongly, showing no evidence of collision.

16 October 2018 – Lincoln’s Sparrow and a bob-tailed House Wren

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.

15 October 2018 – Clay-colored Sparrow

I found a Clay-colored Sparrow in the northwestern corner entrance to the NRC this morning, following the first big front of fall with frost near Woodward. I left the bird in place and it was scavenged by the next morning.

 

24 September 2018 – Yellow Warbler

I found this Yellow Warbler in the southwestern alcove this morning. Female, possibly hatch year but I was unsure on the age; fat = 2.

18 September 2018 – another Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Same window, different day, same result: a HY male Ruby-throated Hummingbird whose first trip to the Neotropics was cut short by a pane of glass in the southeastern alcove.

This was the 370th casualty and 34th Ruby-throated Hummingbird found at the Noble Research Center since August 2009. Today’s casualty puts 2018 at number 7 out of 10 worst years for casualties at the NRC, and there’re still 3 1/2 months of monitoring ahead.

17 September 2018 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

There was an immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the southeastern alcove this morning.

10 September 2018 – Magnolia Warbler

This morning in the southwestern alcove I found the third Magnolia Warbler on the project. This monster was 7.5g, fat = 0, and looked to be a HY male.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 1.18.05 PM.png

 

9 September 2018 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 12.56.57 PM

I found a HY male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the main north entrance this morning.

31 August 2018 – yet another Mourning Warbler

This morning I found the fifth dead Mourning Warbler on campus in the past two weeks: Four (including this one on the northwest alcove) at the Noble Research Center and one incidental find just across a small parking lot from the NRC at the Food and Agricultural Products Center.

For a bit of perspective on how unusual this is, i.e., Mourning Warbler is a secretive, migratory transient in Central Oklahoma that is far more likely to be found dead at a window than live on an eBird checklist, this was the 15th Mourning Warbler casualty I’ve found at the NRC since I began surveys in August of 2009. In comparison, I’ve only found 17 casualties over the same time period of the far more abundant and year ’round resident Mourning Dove.

This one was a hatch-year bird – so just a month or two old – with fat = 1.

30 August 2018 – Mourning Warbler

The wave of Mourning Warbler migration continues and the casualties mount. Here is an adult male from the southwestern alcove cut down in his prime with fat = 3 and trauma evident on the tip of the upper mandible.

29 August 2018 – no casualties, but a bonus Mourning Warbler

Both Ag Hall and the Food and Agricultural Products Center, across Monroe St. from the Nobel Research Center – see their fair share of window collisions, too. Today, the latter building claimed this Mourning Warbler, the third I’ve found window-killed on this campus over the past week.

23 August 2018 – Mourning Warbler

There was more mourning for me this morning, as I found a nearly identical bird to the casualty from Tuesday: Hatch-year Mourning Warbler; indeterminate sex; fat = 3. Here is another youngster on its first journey from the boreal forest to perhaps Colombia or Ecuador, cut down in perfect health from a stupid window in the southwest alcove.

 

21 August 2018 – Mourning Warbler

I found a hatch-year Mourning Warbler of indeterminate sex at the southwest corner entrance to the Noble Research Center this morning.  Fat = a rotund 3.

13 August 2018 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Casualty number two of the fall 2018 migration was this waterlogged Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the southeast alcove.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.10.40 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.10.01 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.23.11 AM.png

8 August 2018 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

This Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the main north entrance is the first official fall migration casualty of 2018, a dubious honor.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 11.21.08 AMScreen Shot 2018-08-08 at 11.20.37 AM.png

Note how the window is a triple threat for migrating birds: It reflects vegetation behind, provides a pass-through illusion to the other side, and it contains a naturalistic rock garden inside visible through the glass. Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 11.24.04 AM.png

In other news, the Black-and-white Warbler from 31 July was scavenged overnight, with 2–3 primaries and a single downy tuft all that remains. It lasted 9 days.

31 July 2018: end of season wrap-up

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:

  • 40: average minimum casualties annually
  • 360: total casualties (minimum)
  • 64: species confirmed as fatalities
  • 10: average number of days for birds to be removed/scavenged

 

Top ten (eleven) species most commonly encountered as casualties at this site:

  • Lincoln’s Sparrow (45)
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (29)
  • Painted Bunting (24)
  • Indigo Bunting (20)    *tie*    Grasshopper Sparrow (20)
  • Mourning Dove (17)
  • Clay-colored Sparrow (16)
  • Nashville Warbler (14)
  • Common Yellowthroat (11)    *tie*   Mourning Warbler (11)  *tie*  Song Sparrow (11)

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 3.09.47 PM

30 July 2018 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

There was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the southwest alcove today.

A sad bonus was this Blue Grosbeak at the Food and Agricultural Products Center.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 10.16.40 AM

 

23 July 2018 – Painted Bunting

All carcasses remain in place, and I was saddened to discover this new one: a second-year male Painted Bunting at the main north entrance.

As the molt sequences in this species defy my ability to explain in a coherent fashion, suffice it to say that this was a male Painted Bunting born in 2017. He spent his first winter somewhere in Mexico or Central America and returned to the Great Plains to attempt his first breeding season this spring & summer of 2018. Along the way, he molted some feathers, but he had not taken on the dazzling blue and scarlet and citron of an older male, i.e., one more than two years old. He looks to have been beginning that process, however: Check out the blue feathers coming in on the face and crown and the contrast between the green-edged secondaries that have grown in more recently and the dull browns of his primaries that were the set he grew while in the nest last year.

This poor guy was probably on his way to northwestern Mexico where he would take advantage of the monsoon-driven flush of productivity to give him the fuel to finally replace those primaries in August and September. Then he would head down further south to spend the actual winter before coming back here next May.

Alas, he didn’t make it – all because of a stupid window.

 

16 July 2018 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Casualty #357 on this project was not a magnum, it was more of a micro: this apparent HY male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the southeast alcove.

5 July 2018 – Painted Bunting

The robin from July 3rd has not yet been touched. New today was this AHY-female Painted Bunting in the southwest alcove. She showed 0 fat and a drying brood patch.