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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25 April 2017 – Lincoln’s Sparrow

The main north entrance claimed a Lincoln’s Sparrow today – ASY-U and bulging with fat = 3.  (Apologies for the lousy photos.)

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22 April 2017 – Orange-crowned Warbler (yep, another one)

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.

19 April 2017 – Nashville Warbler

This one was twofold odd – the bird was found in an odd spot and I’ve clearly overlooked it for a few days given the state of decomposition.  The beetles, slugs, etc. were all over it.

 

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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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12 October 2013 – Lincoln’s and trapped Clay-colored Sparrow

After warming back to 88F by yesterday afternoon, another Friday night brought another cold front (though no rain), and we are breezy and 50s this morning, with the wind out of the north. Again, the juniper hedgerow on the north side of the Noble Research Center is loaded with birds – several dozen in my estimation.  Here’s the NEXRAD radar composite for about 6:50 this morning:

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At the north entrance to the NRC I found one confused and trapped Clay-colored Sparrow.  This Lincoln’s Sparrow (fat = 3) was dead at the northeast alcove.

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