24 September 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Nashville Warbler; plus bonus birds

Birds on the move captured on Nexrad radar tell an important story on the evening of Sep. 23 to the morning of Sep. 24. First, watch migration blow up after local sunrise in the eastern US, and progress to the west.

As the night wore on, storms began to flare up in Oklahoma. Here in Stillwater those storms hit between 1:30 and 2:00 am on Sep. 24. As the storms expand, migration stalls: Birds put down to avoid the storms and for people on the ground, that’s a fallout.

Was there evidence of this fallout on the ground?

Well, there was a bonus Canada Warbler in that troublesome northeastern alcove of the Food and Agricultural Products Center. (This was in addition to a Mourning Warbler and a Wilson’s Warbler I found there on Sep. 21.)

There was a big flight of Nashville Warbler in Stillwater, too. Twelve were reported from Couch Park. I found one in the southwestern alcove and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the northeastern alcove.

 

23 September 2019 – House Wren and Ruby-throated Hummingbird

This morning there was a House Wren at the main north entrance and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the southwestern alcove.

1 September 2019 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird and trapped Painted Bunting

There was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the northwestern alcove and a stunned and trapped Painted Bunting at the south entrance. The Painted Bunting was able to perch on its own and all signs this morning would indicate it recovered and moved on.

25 August 2019 – Yellow Warbler

There was a male Yellow Warbler at the southwestern alcove today.

24 May 2019 – Louisiana Waterthrush

Every day there is a casualty discovered is cause for a twinge of sadness. Some are worse than others, however, especially when our personal biases are affected. My internal monologue on noticing any dead bird is a classic Midwestern ope, but today it escalated to motherf****r! as I got close enough to see what it was lying in front of a glass entry on the northwestern corner of the Noble Research Center. Yep, it was the pinnacle of avian evolution, a Louisiana Waterthrush.

I would be remiss not to mention the unusually rainy, cool spring we’ve enjoyed here in the Southern Plains, and this week flooding has turned deadly. Here in Stillwater, we topped 7″ of rain on Tuesday, with roads and schools closed. But our saturated soils didn’t result from one super storm. Check out these 30-days totals:

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In fact, we’re a solid 20″ above average for the year:

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This is a pattern of rainfall that often washes out waterthrush nests, built along the banks of streams. Having returned at the end of March, it could easily be the case that our local waterthrushes have attempted to nest, and been flooded out, at least three times. Perhaps a scenario like that might explain how a second-year (check out the feather wear) female (she at least attempted nesting – check out the brood patch) Louisiana Waterthrush ends up outside its territory in unfamiliar habitat to die at a window on the 23rd/24th of May? Is this a local movement to find a new territory less prone to flooding and give it another go? Is this a bird that has given up for 2019 and was on her way to molt and prepare for southbound migration while other birds are still streaming north? These intimate details of birds’ lives provide endless fascination for me and, of course, can lead to new and interesting directions for research that can help these birds better survive their forays into human-dominated landscapes.

Besides the feather wear and brood patch, there were a couple of other interesting things about this bird. It had fat in the furcular hollow! Floods don’t keep waterthrushes from foraging well, despite their threat to nests. Still, actually accumulating fat is hormonally influenced, and it strikes me as odd for a bird to accumulate fat outside of migration. This bird also showed obvious trauma to the tip of the bill, indicating a window strike at full speed. I can’t quite tell if the mark on the right pectoralis major is a contusion from collision or the beginning of the progression of brood patch loss. Many questions . . .

23 May 2019 – no casualties but two bonus warblers

The Noble Research Center claimed no new victims overnight, but there was a dead Ovenbird at the Food and Agricultural Products Center this morning, and Eric Duell pointed out a dead Common Yellowthoat on the north side of the Kerr-Drummond complex.

14 May 2019 – Red-eyed Vireo

The 405th casualty is just the 3rd Red-eyed Vireo. This one (from the southwestern alcove) was bedraggled, indicating that it hit some time before (or during) the rain and hail that swept through Stillwater ~7:00–9:00 pm last night.

3 May 2019 – Orange-crowned Warbler

The darkness of these photos illustrates how rainy and gloomy we were when this poor Orange-crowned Warbler met its end at the northeastern alcove. This bird was removed/scavenged on 7 May.

19 October 2018 – Lincoln’s Sparrow, plus another Lincoln’s Sparrow

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.

31 July 2018: end of season wrap-up

Well, here we go. Today marks the end of my 9th year conducting spring/summer monitoring for window-killed birds at the Noble Research Center. Tomorrow I begin year 10. Ten years of near daily monitoring of window-killed birds. Here’s a quick 9-year wrap-up:

  • 40: average minimum casualties annually
  • 360: total casualties (minimum)
  • 64: species confirmed as fatalities
  • 10: average number of days for birds to be removed/scavenged

 

Top ten (eleven) species most commonly encountered as casualties at this site:

  • Lincoln’s Sparrow (45)
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (29)
  • Painted Bunting (24)
  • Indigo Bunting (20)    *tie*    Grasshopper Sparrow (20)
  • Mourning Dove (17)
  • Clay-colored Sparrow (16)
  • Nashville Warbler (14)
  • Common Yellowthroat (11)    *tie*   Mourning Warbler (11)  *tie*  Song Sparrow (11)

 

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8 June 2018 – Red-eyed Vireo

A storm blew through yesterday that dumped 3″ of rain on central OK. Evidently caught up in that mess was this Red-eyed Vireo in the southwestern alcove.

20 May 2018 – two little green birds

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.

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28 September 2017 – Our first Savannah Sparrow, a trapped yellowthroat, and some bonus birds

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.

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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.

Spring/Summer 2017 was busy

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.

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Beginning Mar 1st, here’s what has turned up at the Noble Research Center.

Dead Birds

  1. Indigo Bunting – 5
  2. Painted Bunting – 5
  3. Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 3
  4. Lincoln’s Sparrow – 2
  5. Mourning Dove – 2
  6. Nashville Warbler – 2
  7. Orange-crowned Warbler – 2
  8. Baltimore Oriole – 1
  9. Chipping Sparrow – 1
  10. Eastern Meadowlark – 1
  11. House Wren – 1
  12. Northern Parula – 1
  13. Tennessee Warbler – 1
  14. 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:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Common Yellowthroat
  3. Mourning Dove
  4. Song Sparrow
  5. Yellow Warbler
  6. Carolina Wren

 

 

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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