May 2010

Wild spring weather

What an interesting month!!  May was a beautiful bird month with multiple reports of Yellow Warblers.  Though not as plentiful, other colorful bird reports included Painted Bunting, Lazuli Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, and Summer Tanagers.  Shorebirds loved the rainy weather and muddy puddles left behind.  But the beauty was shattered by violent storms that roared across the Central Oklahoma landscape.  Was that the reason for Will’s sighting?  Who or what killed Libby’s unusual bird discovery?  And then surprise, surprise a habitat neighbor to Libby’s bird was discovered slinking around in the cattails.

On the 1st Bill Diffin started at the Coffer Dam with Orchard Oriole, Yellow Warblers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Bell’s Vireos, and White-faced Ibis while Bob and Dana Holbrook saw a Sora Rail and Marsh Wren.  On the 2nd at the Stillwater Oklahoma Botanical Gardens and Arboretum John Polo found a Painted Bunting and Swainson’s Hawks.  At Lake Hefner Patrick Elder saw Ruddy Ducks, an Osprey and Spotted Sandpiper.  On the 3rd in her Midwest City yard Gayl Wells had a House Wren.

On the 4th the Tuesday Morning Birders led by Bill went to Lake Carl Blackwell and found a Wild Turkey, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Pine Warbler.  Later along the west Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge Bill located a male American Redstart, and Eastern Wood Pewee.  In Stillwater Tim O’Connell was working from home when he was visited by a Blackpoll Warbler and then, there, beneath his feeder an Indigo and Lazuli Bunting were squabbling.

On the 7th John Shackford and Bill sited a Yellow-breasted Chat on the east side of Lake Stanley Draper.  On the 8th Brian Davis located about 15 Bobolinks out in Norman’s Ten-Mile Flats on 72nd just south of Tecumseh; meanwhile, Jim Bates came across them on the corner of 50th and Morgan Road in Canadian County.  Dick Gunn discovered Loggerhead Shrike at Lexington Wildlife Refuge, at South Jenkins a Barred Owl and Least Tern, and Matt observed White-rumped Sandpipers.

On the 9th along Lake Thunderbird Brian noticed a Black-throated Green Warbler.  At the Teal Ridge Wetland just east of 19th and Western in Stillwater Jay Burtka saw a pair of Wilson’s Phalaropes. Along South Jenkins Matt discovered Chimney Swift, Red-eyed Vireo and Tennessee Warbler.

On the 10th 6 tornados traveling at 50 to 60 mph struck Central Oklahoma along and south of I-40.  Four had EF3 ratings and quite a bit of damage was done to buildings and plants.  Just after the storms Tim O’Connell checked the Teal Ridge Wetland and located 17 species including Pectoral Sandpipers, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Black-crowned Night-heron.  Tim also reports Will Jessie had a good look at a Swallow-tailed Kite west of Stillwater about 2 miles south of State Road 51 on Hackelman Road.

On the 11th Bill led the Tuesday Morning Birders to Rose Lake where they located Pectoral Sandpipers and an Alder Flycatcher.  Meanwhile, Dick and Libby, his dog, were checking South Jenkins and decided to take a different route.  He saw great numbers of sparrows foraging along the road including a few remaining White-crowned Sparrows when Libby stopped and sniffed something in the middle of the road.  Dick took a closer look and realized it was a dead Virginia Rail.  He took it to the Sam Noble Museum’s bird collection where they learned it had been pierced in the head. Did hail from the previous day’s storm kill it?  Then again, on the 18thDick saw a Peregrine Falcon in the area, a serious suspect.

On the 12th Nancy Reed in Norman and Lindell Dillon in Midwest City also reported Lazuli Buntings.  On the 13th Brian Davis saw a Cackling Goose flying over Norman, and the next day along South Jenkins CJ Metcalf found a Black Vulture.

On the 14th Ernie Wilson reported a fallout of Dunlin and other shorebirds on the Canadian Valley Sod Farm east of Wilshire and Midwest Blvd.  Jim Bates and Bill Diffin checked it out and other species observed included Black-bellied Plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Stilt Sandpiper. Later Eivind Vamraak added Whimbrel and Upland Sandpiper.  He said the birds seemed very nervous.  No wonder.  Ben Holt discovered a Peregrine Falcon hunting them.

On the 15th Jim Bates checked Rose Lake and observed a Forester’s Tern, and a Willow Flycatcher which was also seen by Angie and Ben Holt.  Matt located a Yellow-throated Vireo along South Jenkins.  Mary and Steve Lane found a Double-crested Cormorant at Rose Lake and Franklin’s Gulls at the Coffer Dam.

On the afternoon of the 16th a devastating hail storm roared though the northern part of Oklahoma City causing millions of dollars worth of damage.  In the morning before the storm Matt saw and heard a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on NW 50th just west of County Line Road.  That evening at Lake Hefner he and his wife discovered an Eared Grebe and 4 Black Terns.  At the Canadian Valley Sod Farm Jim came across a Hudsonian Godwit.  Joe Grzybowski went to the McClain County sod farm south of Goldsby and identified Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped, Baird’s, Semipalmated, and Stilt Sandpipers.

On the 17th Les Imboden in Stillwater had an Olive-sided Flycatcher in his yard.  On the 19th Debbie Kaspari reports a Fish Crow flew over her tornado damaged home at Lake Thunderbird.  Many of the birds were much more vocal and active than normal.  But of course, they too had to reestablish territories and rebuild nests.  That evening another outbreak of tornados and hail occurred in Kingfisher and Payne Counties causing more disturbances.  Total storm damages for the month may exceed one billion dollars. How much damage did wildlife experience?

On the 22nd at Yukon Park Jimmy Woodward had a Mourning Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, and Bewick’s Wren. On the 25th Bill led the Tuesday Morning Birders to Lake Stanley Draper and heard a Kentucky Warbler singing out of sight in a little ravine choked with vegetation, while White-breasted Nuthatches and Summer Tanager were calling and singing in the woods.

In the morning of the 29th Eivind Vamraak and Bill had five separate sightings/hearings of Least Bitterns at the Lake Overholser’s Coffer Dam – with an absolute minimum of two birds. The song is easily mistaken for that of a rather quiet frog.  It was quite an interesting discovery to end an exciting month.

During May a total of 170 bird species were reported with 34 new additions making the Central Oklahoma area to date total at 248 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.