7 May 2017 – Indigo Bunting and trapped Yellow Warbler

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.)

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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).

4 April 2017 – trapped Song Sparrow

No casualties yet, but I’m up to the 3rd trapped bird of the new year: a Song Sparrow in the northwest alcove.  This one was stunned – or exhausted – but before I could get any closer than about 3m it flew away strongly – good sign!

 

This bird was likely riding a wave of migration that really lit up the radar last night (as linked from Paul Hurtado’s birding page). Check out the big blue blobs in Oklahoma from a little after 11 pm last night:

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Keep your eye on that slug of rain and storms (the green, yellow, and red) in the OK Panhandle, though.

Now check out the line of rain and storms that moved in overnight and set up shop on the Kansas border.  This is from a bit before 6:00 am, and nobody moving north through our state kept on moving through that!  This is a classic setup for a “fallout” of birds.  More storms today followed by strong north winds tomorrow will likely keep some staging migrants around for a few more days.

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20 March 2017 – trapped Northern Cardinal

Spring kicked off today with the first collision victim of 2017: a trapped Northern Cardinal at the northeast alcove.

 

He was a bit stunned, but alert in the hand and he perched strongly in the dense cover where I moved him away from the building.  Beautiful ASY male; I hope he makes a full recovery!

30 October 2016 – 2 Grasshopper Sparrows

I found a trapped Grasshopper Sparrow at the main North entrance to the NRC today, and then a second dead bird at the southeastern alcove.  The trapped bird took quite a bit of effort to eventually guide away from the building, but the time was worth it if I was able to keep it from ending up like its comrade.

 

 

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13 October 2016 – trapped Lincoln’s Sparrow

Today I found a stunned Lincoln’s Sparrow on the south portico (no photo).

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The bird couldn’t fly well, but it could fly.  I decided to give it the “perch test” to determine if I should consider it to be a casualty or simply a trapped bird. Once able to catch it, I walked the bird south toward Edmond Low Library and found it a dense and secluded place to perch and rest where it might feel protected – or at least better protected than out in the open of the portico.  I was pleased to see that the bird grasped a branch strongly and seemed to perch well.  This one had me on the fence a bit, but I ultimately logged it as trapped. Though stunned, it seemed otherwise healthy with fat score = 2.

17 September 2016 – trapped Northern Waterthrush

So far, it’s exclusively been the southwestern alcove causing the problems this fall. That’s a bit ironic and potentially problematic, as I’ve completed more window treatments there than anywhere else on the building.  However, none of the four birds that has ended up there has been found in front of a treated window, leaving open the suggestion that the treated windows have not cause any casualties, even if casualties have occurred at the partially treated alcove.

This morning, I found the first bird actually in front of a treated window pane: a Northern Waterthrush. The hopeful difference is that this bird was ALIVE.

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Above right – Yep, that little white dot in the photo on the right is waterthrush splay in front of the window where I first encountered the bird.

12 May 2016 – The story of Layla

Today was a first for me, and I’ve been doing this almost daily for 6 years . . .

I rounded the corner to enter the northwest alcove and was greeted by the sound of a very angry cardinal.  This one, in fact:

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She was chipping nonstop – her mate was there too but hanging back a bit – at another lady cardinal who looked like she’d been having a bad day.

The corner was strewed with her feathers; she was mostly bald on the back of her head.

Here’s what seems to have taken place.  The disheveled female smacked the window and got stunned and then, as a “trapped” bird, couldn’t figure out how to turn around and escape. Then, like taking a wrong turn down an alley and getting trapped by local street thugs, the pair of birds didn’t take kindly to this interloper and they tried to drive her off their territory.  The poor stunned bird just sat there and endured quite a pummeling by the female of the pair.

Window collision leads to intraspecific aggression in Northern Cardinal.  This note practically writes itself.

Despite her rough morning, however, the female weathered the abuse pretty well, and I even had a bit of difficulty in catching her.  Here’s where the story takes on a more heartwarming aspect.

One delightful feature of life in Stillwater, OK is that we play host to the Special Olympics each May. Thousands of athletes with their families and support crews in the planet’s brightest T-shirts were on campus today, and heading over to the football stadium for Opening Ceremonies.  One such group approached me just after I had caught the cardinal and inquired if they could cut through the building on their way to the stadium.  I checked the door, determined that it was unlocked, and invited them to pass through the alcove, much like so many birds think they can do but, sadly, cannot.

Of course, when some Special Olympians and their squad are approaching you whilst you’re holding a disheveled lady cardinal in your hand, you make sure they get a chance to see her up close, and I did! 

It’s always fun for people to see birds up close, but there’s something about the times when I’ve worked with differently-abled folks that I’ve noticed that their sense of wonder and appreciation for such things is on a whole other level.  Their excitement did not disappoint!  They were really gentle, though, and very careful to ask first if they could touch the bird.  (I told them “no” just because I wasn’t sure they’d have a chance to quickly wash their hands after doing so, and that’s always the first thing I do after handling a wild bird.)

Then came the questions, and the first one knocked me for a loop:  “What’s her name?”  The first thing this little girl wanted to know was not the strange set of circumstances that led to some guy walking around with a cardinal in his hand, she first wanted to personalize the cardinal.  It was a startlingly beautiful reaction to the situation!

I was a bit proud of myself for maintaining my composure rather than simply crying and hugging this little girl, so I responded,”I don’t know.  What do you think we should name her?”

Without missing a beat:  “Layla.  Her name is Layla.”

“Layla it is, then!”

For the next few minutes, I explained to them that Layla hit the window and got confused and that the local cardinals were angry with her.  On cue, the male started singing robustly. “See?  That’s the male up there on the roof.” I told them that I was taking Layla to the row of trees nearby where she could rest a bit and then get on with her day. She was going to be just fine.  In the span of a few minutes, they learned a lesson in window collisions for birds, territoriality, and intraspecific aggression. They didn’t need a lesson in empathy or compassion – they already knew that stuff.

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