26 September 2016 – Lincoln’s Sparrow

We finally had a decent cold front push through with the first nip of autumn in the air but, unfortunately, it also brought us the first Lincoln’s Sparrow casualty of fall.  This was an AHY-U, bulging with fat (scored it a 3).  This one is also the first window casualty in front of a treated window.  I can’t tell if the bird flew into an untreated pane above the treated area or if it hit one of the treated panes.  That’s a design flaw of my study, stemming from the logistical challenge of treating such large expanses of glass.

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Lots of birds were moving through campus today.  I found a pair of Brown Thrashers and this Grasshopper Sparrow flitting around the plantings in the southwestern alcove.

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22 September 2016 – Indigo Bunting

The photos illustrate how obvious it is to find many of the carcasses at the Noble Research Center.  Today it was an Indigo Bunting in the southeast alcove.

This was a hatch-year bird and probably a male owing to the faint bluish tinge in the wings and tail.  Were those blushes of color resigned to the upper tail coverts, female would be a bit more likely.  Fat = 0 on this bird.

 

19 September 2016 – Nashville Warbler

That southwestern alcove continues to get a workout this fall, but again, the unfortunate victim was found in front of untreated glass panes.

Today it was a hatch-year (HY) Nashville Warbler; sex undetermined with fat score = 2.

 

When I found the bird in position on the cement as indicated in the above photo, it had already been heavily scavenged by ants. I moved the carcass to a location on the grass on the north side of this southwestern alcove (see photo, top right) to set up a removal trial.

12 September 2016 – Yellow Warbler

The southwestern alcove was again the site of a window-killed bird this morning but, again, it did not appear to have struck one of the treated panes of glass.

The unfortunate victim was an after hatch-year (AHY) female Yellow Warbler, and the ants had gotten to her, big time.

5 September 2016 – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The HY male Ruby-throated Hummingbird I found this morning means that, for 2016, a young male of this species was both the last casualty of “spring” (on July 11th) and the first official casualty of fall.

This bird was in the southwest alcove, illustrating the urgency with which I must complete my ABC bird tape treatments of the west entrances!

13 June 2016 – Field Sparrow

I found a second-year female Field Sparrow at the main north entrance this morning.

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This female too, had a well developed brood patch.  She also had some fat laid down; I’d say coded a 2. Here again, it looks like we’ve got post-breeding dispersal on display.

22 May 2016 – 2 Swainson’s Thrushes

Northwest alcove.  The only thing sadder than the sight of these two birds is the realization that they were probably traveling together.

21 May 2016 – Mourning Warbler and Yellow-billed Cuckoo

With apologies for the 1) poor and 2) non-existent photos . . .

I found an ASY male Mourning Warbler (fat = 0) at the main north entrance this morning. He was waaaaay better looking than these photos attest, and I bet he was even more handsome in life.

 

In the northwest alcove lay a female (with well-developed brood patch!) Yellow-billed Cuckoo (no photo).  I left the cuckoo in place, as the ants were already doing a number on her.

 

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In scavenging news, the starling from 5/18 was both moved and eaten: I found a remnant pile of its larger feathers about 5m away from the bird’s location. Whatever picked it up had taken it south to the bushes in front of the northern entrance.

18 May 2016 – European Starling

This was an odd find, both for species and location.  In monitoring since 2009, this is only the second starling I’ve ever found, despite the fact that starlings nest on the NRC in spring and roost there year ’round. Starlings are pretty well urban-adapted, however, and I guess that explains the infrequency with which I come across them. They either know how to recognize glass as a barrier or they are so likely to perch on the building as opposed to flying past it that they’re more often at a safer “stalling speed” on the wing when they get close.

Except, of course, when they aren’t, and then they’re just as susceptible as any other passerine to death by window. That happened to this inexperienced youngster (HY) at some point over the past 24 hours. I left it in place for a removal trial.

The other weird thing as I alluded above was the location: left side of the main north entrance, close to where the building begins to curve on the east side.

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11 May 2016 – 2 Painted Buntings

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Two more young Painted Buntings had run-ins with the Noble Research Center today, but at least one survived to tell the tale.

The first bird, an SY male with fat = 2, lay dead about 10m from the main north entrance today.

 

Once I had him squared away in my pocket, I turned to continue my route and immediately noticed a second SY Painted Bunting.  This one, a female, was stunned but pretty feisty once I picked her up.

I took her for a walk across the quad to the trees outside Cordell Hall.  She screeched most of the way (a good sign!), and then I placed her in a tree to give her the “perch test”, i.e., is the bird strong/coordinated enough to perch on a branch.  She was, and she proved it to me by flying strongly to a neighboring tree and perching just fine, thank you very much.

Some people find this work I do to be a be a bit morbid, and I suppose I do spend a lot of time handing tragically dead birds.  But this has also put me in position to save a few dozen birds too, notably a Painted Bunting and Summer Tanager over the last week. Every one of these little birds who flies away from me (instead of falling prey to some cat prowling around the building) makes the time most worthwhile.

 

10 May 2016 – Swainson’s Thrush

I found this ASY male Swainson’s Thrush this morning in the southwest alcove.

 

Note the “booted” tarsus.  On thrushes the tarsus is smooth, i.e., without a lot of obvious scaling. It’s sort of like the leading edge of the tarsus is wrapped in one huge scale.

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The Painted Bunting lasted 2 days at the main north entrance; it has been removed.

25 October 2015 – 6 sparrows of 4 species

A crisp and cool night following a home football game made for lots of birds on the move and, evidently, quite a few coming into campus.  I found this morning 3 dead Lincoln’s Sparrows: southwest alcove, southwest peninsula, and southern portico. I found a dead Grasshopper Sparrow at the northwest alcove.

Trapped birds consisted of a Song Sparrow that I pushed away from the southwest alcove, and a Chipping Sparrow in the rafters of the southern portico, apparently unable to figure out that flying down was the key to getting out.

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26 May 2015 – no casualties, but a correction

Thanks to concurrent surveys between Corey Riding’s project and my own, I learned Monday (5/25) of a bird that I had missed on Sunday (5/24): At the north entrance and tucked under some shrubs is a Mourning Warbler.  I missed the bird on two consecutive surveys.  Corey thinks it must have come in sometime during the day on Saturday (5/23).

I’m not too upset to have missed this bird – twice! – because it is waterlogged and cryptic against the background mulch on which it lies and I could only see it from a specific angle that I rarely take when investigating that section of shrubbery.  The key is not to never miss a bird on a survey, it’s to conduct redundant surveys to estimate how many I might be missing. Thankfully, that number seems to be quite low, but we’ll know better what it actually is in a few months.

Both Mourning Warbler and the Swainson’s Thrush were in place this morning.

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15 May 2015 – Painted Bunting

Another day, another dead Painted Bunting.  This time the bird was more convincingly second-year, and a female. This 203rd casualty for the project was the 10th Indigo Bunting killed at the NRC since I’ve been monitoring there.  This moves Painted Bunting ahead of Indigo, tying the former for 5th place with Ruby-throated Hummingbird on the list of frequent casualties.

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11 April 2015 – Northern Mockingbird

Today I found the first casualty at the Noble Research Center since late October, 2014:  a Northern Mockingbird at the northeastern alcove. This was one of those birds that would have been really difficult for me to overlook.

 

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Now a mockingbird would presumably be a resident, and the mocker who seems to have laid claim to this corner of campus was singing his head off while I conducted my rounds.  Was this his mate?  Nope – my examination suggested that this was a male by his rather conspicuous cloacal protuberance.  Was it a local rival?  It would be pretty cool to think of the resident male driving this guy to his death my making him collide with a window.  I doubt that though and here’s why: this was the fattest mockingbird I had ever seen.  It was easy a “2” by my scoring, with the furcular hollow more than half full. The only reason I can see for a mockingbird to have accumulated fat would be if it was in passage.  This otherwise resident species was most likely an individual of that species on his way back north to some portion of the species’ range where mockers bug out for the winter.

Migration is fraught with difficulty and real danger.  Many birds experience the highest mortality of their lives while in passage.  For many, that risk is worth it for the chance to exploit some environmental conditions in spring and summer that are excellent for the production of the next generation.  For some like this guy, the gamble doesn’t pay off.

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27 October 2013 – Four Lincoln’s Sparrows; 2 dead, 2 trapped

There was a dramatic scene at the Noble Research Center this morning, as I tried to steer a small flock of Lincoln’s Sparrows away from the building. Our story presumably began with the heavy flight of migrants last night in the Midwest.  Here’s the scene from about midnight last night:

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I checked the NRC on this bright morning at about 8:15 am.  Following a north, west, south-to-north route, I didn’t encounter any birds until I approached the main north entrance.  From the low shrubs I heard some rustling, and at least one sparrow pitched itself about 5′ from its hiding place into the window before turning around to flush north away from the window.  Three others followed, and 4 birds perched in an ornamental tree in a little courtyard seating area just north of the main north entrance to the NRC.

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From there, I crept around the tree to get a better look and identify the sparrows, but they were tough to see and all flushed and flew northwest before I could confirm the ID.  The first one flew to the southeast alcove where it flew directly into the brick wall before falling to the ground below. These “trapped” birds were clearly exhausted or otherwise impaired from one or more collisions.

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This is the bird that hit the brick wall:

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The other 3 birds flew to the NE alcove.  As I approached there, one bird was frantically flapping against the window that faces east (and looks like a clear passage to the other side to the west), and I watched it bump twice into the north-facing window on the south side of this alcove, right in the corner. This area is above an emergency exit stairwell, and that’s where the poor little guy ended up:

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Remarkably, this bird righted itself a few minutes later, and I actually left it alive at a secure location on the east side of the building where it should have no trouble navigating away should it survive.  I fully expect, however, to find its remains tomorrow morning, and I am counting it as a casualty.  As mentioned in earlier posts, it is often difficult for me to assign a categorical end to some of these birds that are alive but clearly compromised. This bird was awake enough that I elected not to euthanize it, but I doubt that it will survive and I am counting it as a casualty.

One of the other birds in that NE alcove perched in a tree there and ultimately flew back toward the courtyard trees.  That’s where it was (with the first bird that hit the brick wall) when I left.  The 4th was not so lucky.  This bird apparently flew right into the east-facing window of the NE alcove when it first flushed.

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This is how things ended up:

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