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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12 October 2014 – Grasshopper Sparrow

Grad assistant Corey Riding checked on the Noble Research Center today.  He found some Clay-colored Sparrows by the main north entrance but they didn’t seemed trapped.  In the northeast alcove he found this Grasshopper Sparrow, as well as a skunk that might have been interested in scavenging it.

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13 October 2013 – 2 Clay-colored Sparrows and a trapped Grasshopper Sparrow

It was another big night for migrants here in the Southern Plains.  I found dead Clay-colored Sparrows at the northeastern and southwestern alcoves, and a trapped Grasshopper Sparrow at the northwestern alcove.

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Clay-colored Sparrow #1 was heavy with fat (=3) and looks to be a HY bird.

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Clay-colored #2 had a fat score of 2, and some tiny red ants had colonized it by the time I found it.  I left that one in place to check the removal rate.

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The Grasshopper Sparrow was trying desperately to fly east from the northwestern to the northeastern alcove.  It was really wearing itself out.  Thankfully, it was easy to point in the right direction, and it flew well away from the building.

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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.

8 July 2013 – Indigo Bunting and Grasshopper Sparrow

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At first glance, it looked like these two “sparrows” were flying together and hit the same window.  A closer inspection revealed that while they might have ended up in the same spot, they arrived independently.

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Today I found a female Indigo Bunting, apparently AHY. The insects had already gotten to her head – that’s the black “patch” she shows above her eye. This indicates to me that she was actually a casualty from yesterday morning, the 7th.  I moved her to the side and will monitor the progress of her removal.  (The cardinal remains evident to me.)

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A bit closer to the window was this HY Grasshopper Sparrow.  This bird was in excellent condition (fat = 2) in life – indicating that it was migrating – and its carcass was much fresher than that of the Indigo Bunting, indicating that it died more recently.

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This bird I collected and put on ice.  It will be interesting to learn eventually where this bird was born and where it might have been headed so early in the “fall”.

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