April 2009

Fire, Wind, Water, and Feathers

What a month to spend time outside!! Fire, wind, water and feathers brought multiple changes to the Central Oklahoma landscape during the month of April. While many think tornadoes are Oklahoma’s worst weather nightmare, unfortunately in April, long term weather patterns created the conditions for another basic natural force that is necessary to create and maintain the disappearing prairie ecosystem. Migrants were arriving almost daily, and one never knew what would be seen in just a brief moment.

On April 1 Jason Heinen had a Yellow-throated Warbler in cypress trees along the stream at Couch Park on the south side of 12th Street in Stillwater. On the 2nd Jimmy Woodward and Max Fuller birded at Fort Reno and found Wilson’s Phalaropes, American Avocets, Long-billed Dowitchers, Northern Shovelers and Ruddy Ducks. On the 5th Cynthia and Matthew Van Den Broeke saw 4 Chimney Swifts in Norman, but by afternoon there were 30 or 40, and Ben Holt saw one near Lion’s Park. On the 6th Matt Jung found the Red-headed Woodpeckers for the first time this year in Eldon Lyon Park in Oklahoma City, and 4 Upland Sandpipers on the east side of Sara Road. April has been very dry and windy, and now fires begin breaking out in various parts of the state.

On the 7th, a freeze down to 28*F sent gardeners scrambling to protect tender plants for the last time this spring. On the 8th Dora Webb photographed a Say’s Phoebe at Fort Reno as it was hawking insects from the fence. Jimmy saw a Mississippi Kite flying at NW 63rd and County Line road. In Norman Joe Grzybowski’s Carolina Wrens fledged, and Jimmy Van Bebber and Dick Gunn had a Grasshopper Sparrow on South Jenkins. On the 9th Gary Schnell’s Ornithology class picked up about 20 Swainson’s Hawks, a Warbling Vireo and a fly-by Broad-winged Hawk. In Edmond Dave McNeely had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in his backyard where scarlet sage and coral honeysuckle bloom.

On the 9th multiply fires broke out from Ponca City to Davis and Duncan. But the worst was a tragic fire in Midwest City that destroyed at least 100 homes. On the 11th 1.25 inches of rain arrived. Matt Jung found an early spring arrival of a White-eyed Vireo at Stinchcomb; and on South Jenkins Dick Gunn reported one along with Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Northern Juncos and Lincoln Sparrows. Ben and Angie Holt found more than 100 Semipalmated Sandpipers and a Marsh Wren.

On the 12th the rainfall total was 0.41 inches, and in the rain Etha Tinnie found a Western Kingbird on the cattle pen fence in Payne County. At Rose Lake Bill Diffin found a Tricolored Heron north of Foreman Road and Sara Road. At Lake Hefner Jane Cunningham found a Yellow-crowned Night Heron and an Osprey. In Choctaw Chris Butler had a singing Northern Parula in his yard.

On the 13th Matt Jung saw Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Rose Lake; on the 14th Virginia Anderson found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Yukon; and on the 15th Jimmy Woodard found a Solitary Sandpiper at the Mustang Road ponds. In Edmond on the 16th Terri Underhill has Pine Siskins at her feeders, and heard a Great-crested Flycatcher. Chris Butler in Choctaw heard a Chuck-will’s-widow in the neighbor’s yard. For the third successive year a Black-chinned Hummingbird arrived in Matt and Jenny Foster’s Blanchard backyard.

On the 17th Matt Jung had 8 White-faced Ibis at the Coffer Dam on Lake Overholser, and at Rose Lake he heard the distinct croaking of a Fish Crow. In Midwest City Jim Jorgensen found an Eastern Kingbird. On the 18th at Lake Hefner Eric Enwall found a Greater White-fronted Goose, two Common Loons in full breeding plumage, plus, one in winter color and a Spotted Sandpiper.

On the 18th while Jim Bates was putting up three Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes on the north side of the Coffer Dam, he heard a male singing. The whole Stinchcomb wetland area was very dry at this time. The first box was in water, but there is very little standing water in the swamp, so he put up the other boxes in the dry area hoping it will rain soon. While placing the second box he saw a bird wagging its tail constantly and thought it was an Eastern Phoebe, but took another careful look. It was his second observation of a Palm Warbler in the Oklahoma City area.

About the same time in Norman along South Jenkins Dick Gunn and Matt Jung found Prothonotary Warblers, a Green Heron, and Matt had 11 sparrow species for the day. Later Larry Mays and Nathan Kuhnert heard and saw a Yellow-throated Warbler in Vanderburg’s cow pasture. On the 19th Dick found the Yellow-throated Warbler near the police range but it disappeared by the time the other birders arrived. Meanwhile Larry went to Lake Overholser and found the Palm Warbler. Larry noticed beginning tomorrow the winds are changing and will be from the south, so he is expecting a big influx of migrants.

On the 20th in Norman Brian Davis found the very noisy Yellow-throated Warbler. Les Imboden finally had a Purple Finch at his feeder. At the Lexington Public Hunting Area Dick Gunn found two Eastern Wood Peewees and a Yellow-throated Vireo. On the 21st Ben Holt had a Nashville Warbler and a pair of Swainson’s Thrush in his Norman backyard. Nancy Reed, who lives about one mile from the recently burned area around Lake Stanley Draper, found the first Painted Bunting. At the Coffer Dam Bill Diffin found a LeConte’s Sparrow, House Wren, and 10 Willets.

On the 22 a high of 91°F was reached, and as Jennifer Kidney birded along South Jenkins in Norman, she heard the Yellow-throated Warbler and found the first Indigo Bunting and Baltimore Oriole. Later in her backyard she had a Gray Catbird and among the sparrows, a Dickcissel. At Rose Lake Bill Diffin and Carl and Dora Webb found about 12 Marbled Godwit, 24 Long-billed Dowitchers and feeding among the black willow flowers was a Yellow Warbler. On the east side of the Coffer Dam Bill heard a Bell’s Vireo singing in a tree. At the main post office off Reno and Portland in Oklahoma City Larry Mays heard a Cassin’s Sparrow.

On the 23rd Matt Jung saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler at the Coffer Dam. At Prairie Dog Point Lyn Pearce found Forester’s and Least Terns. Sam Martin, Rachel, and Dick Gunn found an Acadian Flycatcher at South Jenkins. On the 25th Jimmy Woodard and Max Fuller reported a male Lazuli Bunting in the Yukon City Park. At Lexington Wildlife Management area Dick Gunn, Brian Davis, his wife, and Ben and Angie Holts found Kentucky Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, and Orchard Oriole.

On the 26th a cold front arrived along with 0.59 inches of rain. Jimmy found a Blue-headed Vireo and Blackpoll Warbler outside his apartment at Reno and Mustang, and at the Yukon Park he had a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Wilson’s Warbler. On the 27th there was another 0.50 inches of rain, and in Stillwater two western species were documented when Andy George photographed a male Vermillion Flycatcher and Tim O’Connell found a Cassin’s Sparrow.

On the 28th only 0.12 inches of rain fell but spring arrivals were ‘falling’ all over the area. Jimmy discovered the little Yukon City Park had become a nice honey hole of migrants including a Least Flycatcher. At Lake Overholser Matt Jung found a Sora Rail. At Lake Stanley Draper Ernie Wilson found a Tennessee Warbler, Wood Thrush, and Harris’s Sparrow. At South Jenkins Dick found a Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Brian found a Winter Wren. Debby Kaspari reported an American Redstart in her Norman yard.

On the 29th it rained 2.49 inches. Jimmy found so many birds at the Yukon City Park he declared a western “Warblerfest” including an Ovenbird, Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers. At Lake Overholser Larry Mays discovered a Northern Waterthrush. On the 30th only 0.01 inches of moisture fell, but Kim Wiar visited South Jenkins and found quite a few birds including an Eastern Wood-pewee.

As the weather changed from the dry, high fire danger to several rainy days for a monthly total of 5.64 inches, new bird species were discovered traveling into and through central Oklahoma. In April 178 bird species were reported making the Central Oklahoma area to date total of 243 species. I appreciate those who help provide the history of central Oklahoma birds by turning in their reports of bird species seen at home and in the field. I can be contacted by email at emkok@earthlink.net, leave a message at 405-381-9170 or mail to 4603 Pikey’s Trail, Tuttle, OK 73089. Esther M. Key, Editor.