When Spring Turned Into Winter
March is the magical month when birds return and winter turns into spring, but this year was different. Several winter residents left including the Yellow-billed Loon and the Trumpeter Swans, and other species started returning from Purple Martins to Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. But an unusual event occurred the first day of spring.
On February 28 the first Purple Martin scout was reported in Blanchard. On March 1st Martin and Carol Blick from England saw the Yellow-billed Loon, Western and Horned Grebes on Lake Hefner. On the 3rd Matt Jung reports the Red-headed Woodpeckers are back in Eldon Lyon Park. On the 6st Terri Underhill’s Carolina Wrens were starting to nest. At South Jenkins Dick Gunn reports the first Blue-winged Teal arrived. Bill Diffin and Paul Roisen from Iowa birded central Oklahoma and found Brown Creeper, White-breasted Nuthatches, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and the Western Grebe. On the 7th Berlin Heck found the Yellow-billed Loon on Lake Hefner. On the 9th Lindell Dillon last found the Trumpeter Swans in Norman.
On the 10th in Grady County Paul Sunby from Austin, TX found Mountain Bluebirds and a Ferruginous Hawk. On the 13th along South Jenkins Matt found the Marsh and Winter Wren, one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and in his daughter’s backyard a female Purple Finch. Near 36th and Classen Larry Mays found two Barn Swallows. The OCAS Kingfisher County birding trip discovered Swamp Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Green-winged Teal, Bald Eagle, Greater Yellowlegs, and Loggerhead Shrikes.
On the 17th at South Jenkins Dick found a Vesper Sparrow, and Larry Mays saw a Turkey Vulture from the dentist’s chair. On the 18th CJ Metcalf found a Least Flycatcher in Norman. In Perkins, Mark Cromwell had a Purple Martin arrive at their new house. On the 19th the last report of the Yellow-billed Loon at Lake Hefner was made by Matt plus Jimmy and Nadine. Later while checking the Max Westheimer Airport area in Norman Matt observed a small jet taxied to the take-off lane and flushed up a Short-eared Owl. Jimmy Woodward and Nadine Varner also found a Rough-winged Swallow at Overholser and a Great Egret at Stinchcomb. On Twin Bridges in Norman Dick saw a single Bank Swallow. Terri Underhill and her grandchildren discovered Great Horned Owl babies in a pine tree nest in Edmond.
On March 19th, the last day of winter was 70°F. March the 20th was the first day of spring but rain had turned to snow and central Oklahoma was experiencing a winter blizzard. It was hard to tell if it was snowing or the wind was just blowing the fallen snow into drifts. Meadowlarks in the front yard were hiding from the ferocious wind behind tufts of grass.
Around noon in Stillwater Jason Heinen heard some Killdeer outside his apartment. When he opened the door he was amazed to see close to 50 of them frolicking in the snow! Nearby James Ownby reports another dozen or so were playing in the street. In Oklahoma City Patti Muzny reports dozens of Killdeer all over Fifth Street in Moore between South Santa Fe and Janeway and large flocks of them at SW 85th and Walker. Further east Frank in Sand Springs saw well over a hundred grounded Killdeer. In Norman Ben Holt reports at Ten Mile Flats just before dark there were groups of 3-5 American Pipits everywhere you looked from Indian Hills down to Rock Creek. The road edges are absolutely dense with sparrows – Savannah’s and Vespers were especially abundant, and in the ditches Wilson’s Snipes were found in good numbers. On the 21st Jerry Vanbebber found a Sprague’s Pipit in the group.
On the 22nd Jimmy checked the Sutton Wilderness area and found two Golden-crowned Kinglets and at 10 Mile Flats an American Golden Plover. On the 23rd Dick and Matt walked the length of South Jenkins and found a Fish Crow and Field Sparrow. Andy Feldt stopped by the playa near 48th and Rock Creek and found a Marbled Godwit.
On the 26th Matt birded the Norman area and found a Baird’s Sandpiper, Bonaparte’s Gull, and Pine Siskin. At Crystal Lake in Oklahoma City Jim Bates saw Franklin’s Gulls. On the 27th in Stillwater James Ownby saw a Black and White Warbler. In Oklahoma City Jim Bates observed a Swainson’s Hawk. On the 28th Brian Davis saw two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers along the outflow creek on South Jenkins. On the 29th in Norman Lindell saw a Lark Sparrow in his yard. In Midwest City Anais Starr found a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Along South Jenkins Brian Davis discovered the Yellow-throated warbler had returned and was singing his heart out from the same stand of trees. On the 30th Matt found two Chipping Sparrows. In Norman Nancy Reed arrived home and looked out the window just in time to see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. On the 31st along South Jenkins Dick found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Nancy Reed found one on the chain link fence at Tinker Air Force Base, and Cynthia and Matthew Whittier saw a couple of on the south side of Norman and heard a Chimney Swift loud and clear. On South Jenkins Matt Jung heard the White-eyed Vireo while the Brown Thrasher showed up in his daughter’s back yard. As the birds return in the forest the red-bud tree buds are beginning to break open to brighten the stark gray bark of the winter trees with a cheerful purple, the promise of spring’s grand opening for real this time.
During March 137 bird species were reported making the Central Oklahoma area to date total at 158 species. I appreciate those who help provide the history of central Oklahoma birds by turning in reports. I can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Esther M. Key, Editor.