Another season of CBC’s has come to an end and I’m reflecting on the birding experiences that I’ve added to my repertoire of birding adventures.
Brian and I began the first of our CBC’s with our own OKC Audubon Society’s CBC. We count in the NW Oklahoma City area of our circle. In around 30 years, we’ve seen many changes – most of them not so very welcome. Birds of prey no longer perch on the utility lines along Memorial Road – there is now a turnpike. Gone are the “wild” places with fields and weeds and trees. In 2012 we found most of our habitat gone and replaced by gated communities that don’t allow weeds. Gone are the hawks and sparrows and flocks of goldfinches and juncos, along with Tree Sparrows, Harris’s Sparrows and White-Crowned and White-throated Sparrows. In spite of the challenges, we managed to find a fair number of species and the weather was good and we were out counting birds.
We closed out 2012 by participating in the Cleveland County Christmas Bird Count (CCCBC) on Sunday, December 30. Of course it was cold and of course the sun stayed hidden and the south wind increased just in time for our trek on the north side of Lake Thunderbird.
Brian Muzny, Esther Key and I made up the CCCBC team again this year. We’ve counted in the same area for well over 20 years. The drought of the past two years has been very devastating to Lake Thunderbird. In one cove in the Zoom Beach area of Little River State Park, the water was down so far, we could easily hike closer to the end of the water. Our reward for that chilly jaunt was a flock of Least Sandpipers and a Snipe. We also found a lone Greater Yellowlegs there.
One of our surprises was a pair of Black Vultures in the Twin Bridges area just north of Alameda Street at the home of our friend, Jane Boren. Another unusual species for our group was Snow Goose, which Brian heard and Joe Grzybowski actually saw from his count area, opposite ours. Esther also spotted our first Wild Turkeys and we had a Roadrunner run across the road in front of our vehicle.
Harris’s Sparrow failed to make our list, as did White-crowned Sparrow.
Our most numerous species was Dark-eyed Junco. Normally we find an Eastern Phoebe, but with all of the wetland areas dry, and maybe due to the cold as well, we found none. Twenty-nine American White Pelicans were found snoozing on the beach at the Marina along with Ring-billed Gulls and one lone Herring Gull. Another surprise (I guess this is a good thing.) was only finding one House Sparrow.
It was a great day of birding, although it never really got warm. And at the end of the day, an invitation to sample the incredible food that comes out of Jennifer Kidney’s kitchen is enough to make up for the chill of the day.
Brian and I began the New Year with the last CBC of 2012 CBC season. On January 5, 2013, we spent an awesome 10-hour day on Ketchum Ranch stalking birds with Leonard and June Ketchum. This was our first CBC for Stephens County and hopefully it won’t be the last! The variety of habitat and remoteness of the ranch make birding here an extraordinary experience. But the best part is spending the day birding with June and Leonard.
Ma Nature chose to hit us with a wind that was not very pleasant for the earlier part of the day, but the sun soon made its appearance and the birding was great. Our first Red-headed Woodpeckers created some excitement, but before long, we were able to find them at several locations. June had Pine Siskins coming to her feeder and we found a few at one of our other stops. Ducks were fun to find at the numerous ponds and lakes in the area. Pintails, one of my favorite ducks, were numerous. One surprise was a Horned Grebe. Brian and I were hiking in some woods along a creek when I heard a sound that I couldn’t pinpoint. After a bit of stalking around some brush, we flushed a feisty little Winter Wren.
Near the bunkhouse we found the Merlin that Leonard practically guaranteed would be in the area. While June drove and Leonard navigated, we spent the entire day mostly on the ranch and tallied 82 species of birds. The unofficial count total for the circle was 112.
We extend our sincere thanks to June and Leonard Ketchum for their hospitality and a memorable day of birding.