December 2010

Awesome Moments in the Cold

December was a fun month of discovery and Christmas Bird Counts.  Many Christmas Bird Counters were surprise with ‘nice’ weather on their count day; however, central Oklahoma is now in a moderate drought and needs moisture.  Bird watching during the morning of the winter solstice revealed a really cool event.  No it was really cool, I had to retreat inside the house several times to warm up.

On the 1st Bill Diffin visited Lake Hefner and located Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Canvasbacks, and at the entrance to Bluff Creek Park, a Golden-crowned Kinglet.  The next day Brian Davis photographed a group that included Western, Horned and Pied-billed Grebes, and Matt Jung reported an unusual gull among the Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s gulls.  On the 4th the brush piles at the top of South Jenkins were buzzing (or chirping?) and Brian spent a breezy and chilly 20 minutes identifying Song, Lincoln’s, White-throated, Fox, White-crowned, and Harris’s Sparrows, plus a fly-by flock of Cedar Waxwings.  Meanwhile, Kim Wiar had a Winter Wren in her Norman backyard.

On the 5th thirteen birders attended the OCAS field trip around Lake Overholser.  Notable sightings included John Shackford observing a cruising adult Bald Eagle, Matt Jung spotting an American Golden-Plover where Jo Loyd was watching a flock of Horned Larks, Cyndie Browning calling out two Sandhill Cranes, and Bill Diffin locating a Franklin’s Gull.

On the 7th in central Norman Cecil Johnson and Dick Gunn saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch.  On the 9th Lisa Wiesbauer found a lone Great Egret in the wild bird area by the retention ponds north of Lake Hefner.  On the 11th Andy Feldt had a Pine Warbler in his Norman backyard, and near Choctaw City John Cleal also had a Pine Warbler along with a few female Purple Finches.

On the 13th Matt located 4 Golden-crowned Kinglets at Eldon Lyon Park foraging together in a small tree, on the 14th a Solitary Sandpiper on the outflow creek along South Jenkins, and 7 Smith Longspurs beside the field west of the Westheimer Airport fence.  On the 15th John Polo found 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets in the bare trees near the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, a few blocks from the Capitol.  On the 16th at Lake Hefner Matt observed a lone gull floating about 200 feet out when it was soon joined by about 40 Ring-billed Gulls.  After a long and careful examination he identified it as a mature California Gull.

During the Payne Count Christmas Bird Counts near Sooner Lake 2 White-tailed Kites showed up, and Les Imboden found Loggerhead Shrikes at Lake McMurtry.  During the predawn hours on the 21st, the first day of the winter solstice, Larry Mays heard a pair of Great Horned Owls performing a duet while watching an eclipse of the moon.  While lunar eclipses occur most years, one on the same date as the beginning of the winter solstice hasn’t occurred since 1638 and the next one won’t come again until 2094.

On the 23rd Ben and Angie Holt took a holiday spin around Lake Overholser and located a female Long-tailed Duck in the little pond behind the boat rental place.  On the 25th Brian Muzny noticed a Merlin in a field just south of I-240 between South Western and South Walker.  On the 28th James Hubbell relocated the Long-tailed Duck with a group of Mallards.   On the 29th in Norman Joe Gryzbowski gave a conservative estimate of the number of American Robins coming from the roost as over 450,000, an awesome sight.

During December a total of 108 bird species were reported with no new additions making the 2010 Central Oklahoma area total at 261 species.  Information from the Christmas Bird Counts will be added later.  I appreciate those who help provide the history of central Oklahoma birds by turning in reports.  I can be contacted by e-mail at   Esther M. Key, Editor.