30 April 2017 – no casualties, but some dead birds

A powerful cold front with rotating bands of heavy rain moved into the Plains this weekend, leaving Stillwater waterlogged with nearly 6″ of rain.  Snow accumulated in the Panhandle and, here in central Oklahoma, icy winds from the South kept temps from rising much higher than the low 50s F.

Several of us got to experience this weird watery weather all day long, as we braved those elements to participate in the Audubon Birdathon Big Day.  Bands (squalls, really) of cold rain and occasional sleet swept through every 30 minutes or so throughout the day. It was cold, it was wet, and the Cimarron filled its banks and then some.  Shorebirding was excellent, but the birds were in flooded fields as there certainly wasn’t any exposed mudflat for foraging.

We ended the day with a quite respectable 126 species, but it was a tough day for many of these birds.  There were a few grim reminders that hard spring weather can rapidly turn deadly:

I’d been following this Mourning Dove that had nested in last year’s robin’s nest near the main north entrance of the Noble Research Center:

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That sturdy adobe nest blew out of its tree in the wee morning hours of 4/29, and mama Mourning Dove wasn’t quite ready to give up on her eggs in the afternoon.

We found 14 (!) Soras at one site on the 30th, and a few days later I found this unfortunate one that died in a window collision at Eagle Heights Baptist Church:

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The saddest case, however, had to be this one:  Carolina Chickadees in one of my nest boxes were trying to fledge during that horrible weather on the 30th.  A few of them made it – or at least made it outside the box and were promptly snatched up by my local Cooper’s Hawks – but at least one did not.  A few days later, I checked the box to find these contents – a dead nestling and one of its parents, presumably the mother. Near as I can tell, the adult was in the box brooding the youngster and they both succumbed to the elements (or were killed but not retrieved by the Coops). I’ll never know the real cause of death, but either directly or indirectly, the rain squalls of Apr. 30th seem to have played a role.

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16 September 2012 – strange bedfellows, with three new to the study

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.

14 September – Trapped Sora!

First things first – the cheeseburger is gone.  Two days ago it was apparently swiped by a lawnmower but still remained (in two pieces) conspicuous on the sidewalk.  This morning it was gone.  So after about 2 weeks, a delicious-looking, fresh cheeseburger patty has finally been snatched up by something.

Next we had another highly unusual occurrence last night – rain!  Beginning around noon yesterday to just some drizzle this morning at 8 am, we’ve finally had a decent, persistent rain here in Stillwater.  We managed one or two storms this summer, but by my reckoning our last actual rainy day was June 2nd.

One surprise waiting for me this misty morning in the bushes by the north entrance was a Sora, the first for the project.  Soras are long-distance migrants, and they often show up in studies of collision mortality; this one was my first, however.  Here’s where Soras tend to be, year ’round:

Here’s where they’ve been reported recently:

Here’s where one was this morning:

The bird was in great shape.  I steered it away from the building and it flushed off to the left and landed near a nearby exterior wall.  I flushed it again and this time it gained altitude, flew over the top of the NRC and was winging its way south again when it flew out of my line of sight.  Right now, I don’t know if it even made it off campus, but I at least was able to “free” it from the NRC.