This morning there was a House Wren at the main north entrance and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the southwestern alcove.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Indigo Bunting – 5
- Painted Bunting – 5
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 3
- Lincoln’s Sparrow – 2
- Mourning Dove – 2
- Nashville Warbler – 2
- Orange-crowned Warbler – 2
- Baltimore Oriole – 1
- Chipping Sparrow – 1
- Eastern Meadowlark – 1
- House Wren – 1
- Northern Parula – 1
- Tennessee Warbler – 1
- Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
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:
- Northern Cardinal
- Common Yellowthroat
- Mourning Dove
- Song Sparrow
- Yellow Warbler
- Carolina Wren
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).
Today was one of those “just when I think I have this figured out” days.
As I was rounding the west perimeter of the Noble Research Center between the southwest and northwest alcoves, some feathers caught my eye up against the brick side of the building. This is the first time (in nearly 8 years) I found a bird at this spot and it was also pretty clearly one new to the study: a bright orange and black Baltimore Oriole, or at least a nice pile of feather remnants from what had lately been an adult male (ASY) Baltimore Oriole.
Though for consistency’s sake I’ll record that spot on the building as the location of collision, I in fact don’t know where the bird hit. All I know is that a predator (and very likely a cat based on the neatly sheared primaries) appears to have eaten said oriole at that spot.
Around the corner and into the northwest alcove, I found the remnants of a scavenged adult Mourning Dove. Here again was a bird in a very odd location. Strangely enough, the bird was in the exact location (beneath an ornamental buttonbush) where collaborator and OSU PhD student Corey Riding had the week before left a Cedar Waxwing carcass for a scavenging trial. Corey, however, had left neither a dove, an oriole, nor anything else at that spot since the waxwing. Puzzling for sure . . .
Finally, there was another bird at the end of the alcove in front of one of the untreated panes. Here was another oddity – a House Wren.
Sad to think that this spectacular specimen of an ASY male (fat = 2) Indigo Bunting safely crossed the Gulf of Mexico a few days ago but could not safely navigate the Noble Research Center.
Indigo Buntings, of course, have no blue pigment. Blue is produced by birds through light reflectance – it’s structural color, not pigment.
You might think, then, that Indigo Buntings would look really cool in UV light. They don’t, unless you think charcoal looks cool!
Yesterday (Friday 4/21/17) dawned stormy after an equally stormy night. We picked up nearly 2 inches of rain (+ some hail!) and enjoyed several hours of lightning and thunder. It was dicey enough – and I busy enough – that I skipped Friday’s morning survey.
Saturday, Earth Day (!) was misty, windy, and cool but mostly dry. After a morning field trip, I checked the Noble Research Center and found the fifth Orange-crowned Warbler of the survey. (Recall, that Thursday, 4/20, produced the fourth.) It is tantalizing – and sad! – to think of two birds traveling together and dying together, especially considering that the collision took place at the same spot on the building. I don’t think, however, that this ASY, fat = 0, probable female had been in place since Thursday. She was much too dry to have lain out in the open during Friday’s deluge. So I think she really did come in overnight and if not traveling with Thursday’s male, evidently following a similar route.
The Mourning Dove was still there this morning, but it has been disturbed a bit and is now on its back.
New this morning was an unfortunate Lincoln’s Sparrow at the main north entrance to the NRC. As is so often puzzling, this was a bird that had to have been traveling south to hit the glass there even though the net movement of Lincoln’s Sparrows in April in Oklahoma is north.
This bird had 0 fat, was of indeterminate sex, and looks to be a SY. Note trauma to the bill tip indicating the point of collision.
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.
Today I found at least one, and very likely two, new species for the study. In any other study this would be cause for celebration. Not so, here.
First, I encountered a trapped bird at the north main entrance. I could tell immediately that it was an Oporornis – now Geothylpis – warbler, and Mourning is the most likely candidate by far. This bird was sprightly and flew strongly as I attempted to steer it away from the NRC. I was unsuccessful as it perched in the trees near the entrance, but at least from that location the bird would be more likely to detect the barrier that the building presents and less likely to build up sufficient speed to do any lasting damage. I ruled it a “trapped” bird for that reason, and I really hope that it’s gone by tomorrow . . .
I couldn’t get close enough to catch it, but it was perched in rather open spots on the ground and in the trees so I fired off some photos. My examination of the photos led me to believe that this bird was actually a pretty darn rare one this far east: MacGillivray’s Warbler. It looks to me to be a AHY female, judging from the whitish throat and the two, broad eye arcs above and below the eyes. I have shared the photos with our state birds record committee coordinator. Until I hear definitively from him, I’m reserving final ID on the bird. I do think it’s MacGillivrays. What do you think?
The eBird distribution above illustrates how unusual an occurrence a MacGillivray’s would be this far east. It’s certainly the first one I’ve seen in Oklahoma, and I think the only one I’ve ever seen east of Las Vegas.
Next, I found a dead bird at the south entrance, and this was the penultimate pinnacle of avian evolution, the Northern Waterthrush. It was an AHY bird with fat = 2, and in truly gorgeous shape before meeting its untimely demise. This is the 50th species I’ve found dead at the NRC, and the 186th casualty.