December 2011

A Snowy Present

Very welcome rain in December helped ease the drought, but birders are reporting lower number of individual birds. Central Oklahoma ended the year under moderate drought conditions so is the continued drought causing a lower number of birds or is the mild weather encouraging birds to stop migrating as far south? However, for Oklahoma birders an unexpected migrant arrived as an early December present and stayed late.

On the 3rd Joe Grzybowski and David Durica had Sharp-shined Hawks at their feeders in Norman even though they live a fair bit apart. On the 4th Matt Jung had a leucistic Blue Jay at Eldon Lyon Park. Nadine Varner reported an out of season Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at the zoo and after a feather count none are missing from the exhibits. On the 6th Bill Diffin stopped by the gull roost at the east end of Lake Hefner dam and located the Lesser Black-backed Gull and on the 7th an immature Bald Eagle. On the 9th along South Jenkins Cecil Johnson and Dick Gunn saw a Common Yellow-throat, Winter Wren, American Tree Sparrows, and Greater Yellowlegs. Lindell Dillon had a female Greater Scaup on his pond in Norman. On the 10th Steve and Mary Davis located an out of season Snowy Egret at Lake Hefner.

On the 13th during some dark and gloomy weather John Couch was taking the back road through Marland and as the day was almost dark, he saw a large bird of prey on top of a power pole with some white on its face and a rounded head. He turned around for a second look and when a pickup passed the bird flew so he could now see it was a beautiful, all-white bird. He followed and identified it as a mature Snowy Owl. Later in the month when John and a friend stopped a local resident told them the bird usually arrives about 3-4 weeks before Christmas and stays around for 3 or 4 weeks afterward and another local confirmed this is the fourth year the owl has wintered here. The owl was continuously reported up to the 31st.

From the 11th to the 13th Ed Boyd from Maryland stopped at the Embassy Suites field in Norman and located Chestnut-collared, Lapland, Smith’s and a couple of McCown’s Longspurs, plus LeConte’s Sparrows, Sprague’s Pipits, Lark Buntings, and Eastern Meadowlarks. On the 20th Nancy Reed reported a Pine Siskin eating with a group of American Goldfinches at her window feeder.

On the 17th John Sterling saw a juvenile Thayer’s Gull at Lake Overholser and Bill had one at Crystal Lake at the same time in the afternoon. On the 24th Bill again reported a Thayer’s Gull at Prairie Dog Point on Lake Hefner. On the 25th Rebecca John saw 2 male and 1 female Ring-necked Pheasants when they were searching for the Snowy Owl near Marland. On the 27th Patti Muzny discovered a pair of Purple Finches at her sister’s house southeast of Stillwater. On the 30th Bill Diffin checked Prairie Dog Point and located Western Grebe, Horned Grebe, Northern Pintail, Red-breasted Merganser, Cackling Goose, Common Loons, and Hooded Mergansers. Steve Davis and Mary discovered a White-winged Dove at their feeder in north Oklahoma City. At Lake Hefner on the 30th Bill confirmed the Snowy Egret and on the 31st relocated the Lesser Black-backed Gull at Crystal Lake. Matt Jung checked South Jenkins in Norman and found Wilson’s Snipe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe and Savannah Sparrow.

Thanks to data from the Christmas Bird Count during December 130 bird species were reported including 2 new species which increased the 2011 Central Oklahoma area total to 268 species. 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.