October 2012

After 62 years

Surprises this month include an early frost and an exciting bird visitor discovered by someone who waited 62 years to see it. On the 8th the earliest first frost date for central Oklahoma was recorded with minimal damage to plants since it was a scattered light frost. Two more scattered light frosts occurred on the 27th and 28th. Still many of the Maximilian Sunflowers continue to bloom and most of the trees remain green. Several rain showers in different locations have changed the drought monitor in central Oklahoma from the worst category of exceptional to extreme on the western side and severe on the eastern side. Several summer birds still remain, some of the winter birds have arrived, and a few extremely rare birds showed up in October.

On September 29th Dala Grissom noticed a Red-breasted Nuthatch in Pottawatomie County. On October 1st James Hubbell located a Tennessee Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Lake Hefner. On the 2nd Tim O’Connell reported the first fall Northern Junco in Stillwater, and Stacy Covington spied a Bald Eagle on the west side of Lake Overholser. On the 4th Dick Gunn observed an Osprey along South Jenkins as well as Green-winged Teal, Greater Yellowlegs and a couple of Least Sandpipers. On the 6th in Mustang, Jimmy Woodward had a brief visit from a late female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

On the 7th Jimmy saw a Barn Swallow flying down his street; Brian Davis discovered a Red-breasted Nuthatch in his Norman backyard; T K noticed a Caspian Tern at Lake Thunderbird’s Indian Point; John Polo found a Brown Creeper and Blue-headed Vireo in Stillwater; and Sharon Henthorn was thrilled to see a beautiful Spotted Towhee strutting out in the open for several minutes in her Oklahoma City yard. On the 9th along South Jenkins T K spotted a lingering Common Nighthawk and heard a Fish Crow while Victor Fazio III witnessed a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. On the 10th Matt Jung walked the west side trail at the Stinchcomb WMA and sited a Great Horned Owl, and at Tinker Air Force Base John Polo caught sight of a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

On the 11th in Harrah Chris Butler heard a non-adult male Red Crossbill as it flew low across his backyard, circled around, and then headed north. He suggests this may be a good year to check out the pine stands for more individuals of this species. On the 12th Dave McNeely had an Indigo Bunting strike his window during a thunderstorm. On the 13th while doing a Big Sit at Lake Thunderbird near the twin bridges on Alameda, Dick Gunn and Brian Davis spotted a late Snowy Plover.

On the 14th in his south Oklahoma yard Jim Bates discovered a Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nashville Warbler and then he was surprised with a very rare Townsend Warbler, possible the first for central Oklahoma. He was able to study it for 10 – 15 minutes to confirm this bird of the Pacific Northwest which migrates to Mexico and Central America and would have been well east of its migration path.

On the 14th Matt Jung pished up a red Fox Sparrow along the east side of the Stinchcomb WMA. On the 15th Dick Gunn saw some new arrivals on South Jenkins including several Vesper Sparrows, a Savanna Sparrow, and a Black-throated Green Warbler. This warbler breeds in the northeast and across Canada and is on its western migration edge traveling to Mexico, Central American and other southern locations.

On the 16th shortly after high noon Matt Jung was scanning Lake Overholser and was astonished to see, what appeared to be an adult Whooping Crane. He hurried back to his car, drove north on the berme road about 1/2 mile and set up the spotting scope.  It was a single adult Whooping Crane for sure. See his story on page 7 about how he waited 62 years for this event. On the 17th a lady reported that while she, a “wildlife guy,” and several others were watching, the Whooping Crane flew up with a group of American Pelicans, circled, and flew southeast away from the lake at a high altitude.

On the 18th Jimmy found a White-throated Sparrow near his yard. On the 20th Carolyn and Lindell Dillon observed over 100 Sandhill Cranes off North Sentinel Point at Lake Thunderbird.

On the 22nd Jack Olson spotted a Turkey Vulture near I-40 in Seminole County. On the 28th In Stillwater Tim discovered a Pine Siskin at Lake Carl Blackwell; Brian found an Inca Dove at his feeder in Norman; and while Dick was walking along South Jenkins, his dog, Libby, kicked up an American Bittern and a bunch of Wilson’s Snipe.

On the 29th at Cottonwood Creek Reservoir in Logan County (just west of I-35 on North Broadway between Waterloo Road and Simmons Road), Christie Stoops set eyes on a Pied-billed Grebe, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and Canvasback Ducks. While hiking Stinchcomb east Matt was surprised to hear and observe a single Gray Catbird, plus a Barred Owl and Red-breasted Nuthatch, and on the 31st on the west side he located the first fall Harris’s Sparrows. As the weather continues to cool down, the flowers turn to seeds, and the leaves turn to gold, what other avian surprises will arrive?

During the October 141 bird species were reported with 5 new species which increased the year’s total to 273 species in the Central Oklahoma area. I appreciate those who help provide the history of central Oklahoma birds and can be contacted by e-mail at emkok@earthlink.net. Esther M. Key, Editor.