October 2011

Changing of the Seasons

Suddenly, the change from a hot, dry summer into shorter, cooler days also began a major change in plants and birds. So do the insect eating birds leave because of a decline in insects caused by the weather changes, or do the additional demands by juvenile birds cause a food shortage, or is there another reason for the exodus? Further north even colder weather forces many shorebirds, swimmers, and seed eating birds to move south. It is exciting to see the last of the summer birds while watching for the first winter birds and hoping for a good fall crop of seeds to feed them.

On the 3rd Joyce Konigmacher in Stillwater had the first White-crowned Sparrow among the juvenile Northern Cardinals. On the 7th Larry Hancock and Bill Diffin walked over ½ mile on the dried sand of Lake Overholser where they found a white Little Blue Heron, Northern Pintails, American Golden Plovers, American Avocets, American Pipits, Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcons. Over the weekend about four inches of rain fell in some central Oklahoma locations. While greatly helping to perk up plants, it was not enough to end the drought.

On the 11th Canton Lake began releasing 30,000 acre-feet of water for Lakes Overholser and Hefner during the next two weeks. Jennifer Kidney had a big gathering of Chimney Swifts over her yard in Norman, and on the 12th Sue Lutze discovered a Pied-billed Grebe in Tuttle. On the 13th Ken and Carol Williams reported a Crested Caracara in Choctaw County, and on the 14th Jan Dolph noticed one near the Kilpatrick Turnpike close to the Wilshire Boulevard exit. Both birders have seen them in Texas.

On the 14th in Norman Joe Grzybowski discovered the first Dark-eyed Junco, and at Lake Hefner Lisa Wiesbauer found a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers. Along South Jenkins, Jennifer Kidney saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Savanna Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee, and on the 15th a flock of Harris’s Sparrows. Jimmy Woodard noticed a flock of Canada Geese with a white one, most likely a Snow Goose. Jim Bates reports an unusual sighting of a Lark Bunting along the Kilpatrick Turnpike on the west side of the 50th street overpass. Bill Diffin, Marion Homier, and John Cleal went to Prairie Dog Point at Lake Hefner and located a Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Osprey, Swainson’s Hawks, Black-bellied Plover, Franklin’s Gulls, American Pipits and a Short-eared Owl.

On the 16th Steve Davis and Mary Lane reported American White Pelicans and Yellowlegs on El Reno Lake, and Nathan Kunhert encountered a flock of Cedar Waxwings near McKinley Elementary School in Norman. On the 17th along South Jenkins Dick Gunn and Cecil Johnson located a Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Sora Rail and Hairy Woodpecker.

On the 20th the first freeze of the season hit the low lying areas in the northern part of central Oklahoma. Meanwhile, at Lake Hefner James Hubbel spotted a couple of Herring Gulls, Nashville Warbler, Lark Sparrow and reported water had begun to arrive. Jim Danzenbaker stopped shortly at Lake El Reno and found 125 Stilt Sandpipers and an American Golden Plover. Along South Jenkins Cecil and Dick saw Fox and Clay-colored Sparrows. On the 21st in Norman, Nancy Reed had a White-throated Sparrow and Spotted Towhee. At Lake Arcadia Sue and David Woodson discovered a Belted Kingfisher, Tufted Titmouse, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal.

On the 22nd and 23rd Chris Butler reports the OOS field trips yielded 84 species including a Cackling Goose, Ring-necked duck, Ruddy Duck, Horned Grebe, White-faced Ibis, Dunlin, Barn Swallow, Lark Bunting, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Bewick’s, Sedge, and Marsh Wren, American and Sprague’s Pipit, Field, Grasshopper, Swamp, and Leconte’s Sparrows. Matt Jung checked the berm on Lake Overholser for ten days and discovered Semi-palmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and a female Indigo Bunting,

By the 26th patches of Maximilian Sunflowers and small areas of forest are turning into a brilliant sunburst yellow to light up the landscape in contrast with punctuation points of bright red foliage from sumac patches and winding Virginia creeper vines. Mark Howey heard an Eastern Screech Owl in Norman, and during the weekend Dick saw a late male Orchard Oriole which was later confirmed by a couple of OU ornithology grad students.

On the 31st Garey Harritt photographed an Eastern Towhee in northeast Logan County, and it looks like Brian Davis located a few Smith’s Longspurs among the Chestnut-collared Longspurs and Sprague’s Pipits near the Embassy Suites in Norman. Meanwhile, at the Great Salt Plains Patrick and Tami Elder were rewarded with a sighting of four Whooping Cranes among the Sandhill Cranes. So keep your eyes open to see if they are found again in central Oklahoma as they have been in years past. Also, mark your calendar. The date for the Oklahoma City Christmas Bird Count has been announced for Saturday, December 17th and Cleveland County CBC on Sunday, January 1st.

During October a total of 135 bird species were reported including 6 new species which increased the 2011 Central Oklahoma area total to 264 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 emkok@earthlink.net.
Esther M. Key, Editor.