November 2011


As the month began ribbons of gold meandered though the fields and forest, winter birds are appearing at feeders and on the lakes, and rain arrived along with tornados and earthquakes.

In Norman along South Jenkins on the 3rd Mark Jordan saw a flock of about 100 Sandhill Cranes, on the 4th Dick Gunn reported a Sora Rail, Marsh Wren and Swamp Sparrow, and on the 5thMatt Jung discovered a Hermit Thrush while Jennifer Kidney heard it singing.  At the Guthrie Sand Pit Gaery Harritt saw a Bald Eagle flying across the water swooping down on a flock of American Coots.  Other species present included Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebes, Ruddy Ducks and Hooded Mergansers.

On Saturday, November 5th the largest recorded earthquake in the state of Oklahoma struck with a magnitude of 5.6 and the epicenter in Lincoln and Pottawatomie Counties.  Aftershocks included 70 quakes at magnitudes of 1.0 to 2.5 including 12 at magnitudes of 3.0 or higher.  On Monday, the 7th a front entered southwest Oklahoma bringing tornados.  When it arrived to the west and north of Oklahoma City as heavy thunderstorms, another quake hit at 2045 with a 4.7 magnitude.  This rain helped move central Oklahoma out of the exceptional drought category into the extreme and severe drought categories.  Central Oklahoma still needs another 1 -3 inches of rain to return the soil to full moisture levels, but the lakes and ponds will need even more to return to full except Lakes Hefner and Overholser which received an artificial refill from Canton Lake.

On the 9th Ken Williams and Jim Arterburn birded the dam at Lake Hefner where they located a female/immature Surf Scoter in the water treatment ponds around 1615.  Matt Jung also spotted it and James Hubbell was the last to report it on the 10th.  On the 11th Mary and Mark Peterson discovered a Western Grebe just out from Prairie Dog Point.  Sue and Dave Woodson also located Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Common Merganser, and Common Loon.  On the 12th Jimmy Woodard and Nadine observed two Black-bellied Plovers, Forster’s Terns, Bonaparte’s and Herring Gulls and one smallish billed and bodied unidentified Loon.  Jimmy estimates there are over 200 duck species and perhaps a total of 4-5,000 birds.  On the east side of Lake Hefner’s dam Bill Diffin located a Lesser Black-backed Gull in the more northerly group of gulls closest to the dam.

On the 13th Valerie Bradshaw, Jimmy Woodard, and Willie Hendrickson from Minnesota walked the field near Norman’s Max Westheimer Airfield and located Sprague’s Pipits, Leconte’s Sparrows, Smith’s Longspurs, Chestnut-collared Longspurs and a Lark Bunting.  In Norman Jennifer Kidney had a Golden-crowned Kinglet doing pirouettes in the mostly denuded hackberry tree.  At Lake Overholser on the 19th James discovered Canvasback and Least Sandpiper.  Jim and John Bates, Dave and Sue Woodson and Sharon Henthorn birded the El Reno Sewage Ponds and Fort Reno locating Wilson’s Snipe, Brewer’s Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, American Tree Sparrow and Loggerhead Shrike.

On the 23rd Jimmy checked Lake Hefner and added American Pipit.  On the 25th Bill watched a Peregrine Falcon harassing Ring-billed Gulls along the dam, and found the first winter Common Goldeneyes.  Tim O’Connell had a male and female Purple Finch at his feeders in Stillwater.  On the 28th Garey reported Eared Grebes at the Guthrie Sand Pits.  While visiting from Petaluma, CA Alan Wight spent a few hours walking around the Embassy Suites fields and located Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur and Black-tailed Jackrabbit.  On the 30th Dick had a Winter Wren at South Jenkins.  On the 29th he reported an Orange-crowned Warbler and also, very unfortunately, the death of Norma, the white Red-tailed Hawk.  She will be greatly missed by her many admirers.

During November a total of 109 bird species were reported including 2 new species which increased the 2011 Central Oklahoma area total to 266 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.