In Memoriam: Tom Ulrich, acclaimed wildlife photographer and dear friend to many in the PCAS, passed away on Feb. 10 2017 due to complications from a rare cancer with which he was diagnosed in January.
Migration is ramping up – Tim O’Connell found a Broadwing in the backyard today.
1300 Cimarron Hill Rd., Stillwater, Payne, Oklahoma, US
Sep 6, 2015 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Mississippi Kite 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 4
Carolina Chickadee 4
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Eastern Bluebird 7
European Starling 5
Lark Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 4
Baltimore Oriole 2
House Finch 2
Scott Loss has been finding some great birds over the past few weeks. Here’s a sample:
May 31: I did a little bit of exploratory birding in the eastern part of Payne County this morning in hopes of finding some rare breeders. I was unable to find any abnormal grass/shrub-land birds in the relatively large area of range land NE of Yale, but a couple spots in this area bear watching for a Sedge Wren or Henslow’s Sparrow if we continue to have good moisture this summer. Specifically, the areas near the intersection of Lakeview and Underwood and also near the intersection of Airport and Eagle appear to be fairly “tall-grassy” with appropriate structure.
Next, I explored a remote area of road-accessible riparian forest along the Cimarron River south of Yale that I had pinpointed on Google Maps satellite view. This spot turned out to be excellent and may be the best southeastern-type forest in the county (possibly bigger and better than Ghost Hollow). Highlights here were ACADIAN FLYCATCHER and Yellow-throated Warbler. This spot is definitely in the far reaches of the county and was slightly treacherous as the road appears to have recently been under a lot of water. However, with some mud boots the forest is easily accessible with about a half mile of walking along a low maintenance roadway. Details of directions and a map of this area can be found on the linked eBird checklist:
5 Turkey Vulture
1 Mississippi Kite
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Mourning Dove
2 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
3 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Pileated Woodpecker
1 Acadian Flycatcher – Explosive pit-see squeak call heard repeatedly from appropriate mature riparian forest habitat
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
3 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
1 Bell’s Vireo
3 Red-eyed Vireo
4 American Crow
1 Barn Swallow
4 Carolina Chickadee
2 Tufted Titmouse
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Carolina Wren
7 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Eastern Bluebird
1 Northern Mockingbird
2 Prothonotary Warbler
1 Yellow-throated Warbler
1 Summer Tanager
3 Northern Cardinal
4 Indigo Bunting
5 Painted Bunting
2 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 Orchard Oriole
May 19: They were somewhat few and far between, but there are still some excellent migrant songbirds around the area. The highlight this morning was a singing male CANADA WARBLER at Babcock Park (heard first then seen after some mild bushwhacking on the north side of pond near where the Wood Thrush has been). At Couch Park, I managed to finally stumble on a small wave of warblers near the restrooms that included BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (female), American Redstart (female), Tennessee Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler. By the north side pine plantation, I was able to pish up a singing male MOURNING WARBLER.
May 17: While running errands this morning, I did a quick drive-by for shorebirds around the grassy lawns on the northeast side of town. The big field south of the Armstrong Plant was empty, but a flooded area on the east side of the Asco Plant (old Mercury plant) held 7 species of shorebirds, including Wilson’s Phalarope, Killdeer, and Solitary, Least, Semipalmated, Baird’s, and White-rumped Sandpipers. There was also a Horned Lark here. Given the birdiness of these fields, I decided to detour over to the Meridian Tech fields. Here I found ZERO shorebirds, but perhaps even better, there were 2 LEAST TERNS fishing on the bigger pond.
May 14: Among 85 mostly resident species at Lake Carl Blackwell this morning, highlights included 4 BLACK TERNS far out over the lake, 2 late TREE SWALLOWS at Ski Point foraging with the Cliff Swallows, and the return of the PRAIRIE WARBLER to the same area it spent 2014.
May 11: What a great morning to be out! I ran into John Polo at Couch Park and we birded there and at Babcock Park. Couch Park was the best I’ve seen, with best bird being a VEERY. Other highlights included male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue-headed Vireo, Pine Siskins, male American Redstart, Wilson’s, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Tennessee and Nashville Warblers and Northern Parula, L. Waterthrush, and Common Yellowthroat; I got a glimpse at and also heard a likely Philadelphia Vireo, but not good enough views/hearings to confidently call this tricky species. Babcock Park was also decent with CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER and Blackpoll and Prothonotary Warbler (bringing total to 13 warblers on the morning). The WOOD THRUSH continues at Babcock as well. Also saw 7 or 8 Least Flycatchers across both parks; these guys seem particularly abundant compared to last year.
Clay Billman’s 6th Grade Junco Essay
Local photographer and all-around great guy, Clay Billman, wrote to PCAS with a recently rediscovered essay about juncos from his school days. The essay is a great example of the exuberance that children can have for birds and the kind of funny and endearing creativity that can be generated from that exuberance.
The essay: Junco-essay-6th-grade-CB
Rare bird report: Dec. 2014
The Stillwater Christmas Bird Count took place on Saturday, Dec. 20. Rarities in the count circle include the following:
LEWIS’S WOODPECKER continues at Lake Carl Blackwell in the same grove of trees where it was first noticed on 18 November. A PRAIRIE FALCON was observed in the same tree at 4:00 pm on Dec. 20.
Rare bird report: Nov. 2014
On Nov. 18, a Lewis’s Woodpecker was spotted at Lake Carl Blackwell, and the bird continues at the same spot today (30 Nov.). Lewis’s Woodpecker is a Rocky Mountain bird that is a great find even at the western edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle; this appears to be the first Payne County record. The bird has been hanging around a large dead tree near the marina at Lake Carl Blackwell, across the street (east) of the Lake Store and Headquarters building. John Polo shared his thoughts below on his first opportunity to see this stunning bird.
Lewis’s Woodpecker – Birding with The Goose
Brandy and I have friends with a 3 y.o. daughter whom we adore. When she was still crawling around, I started calling her The Goose. The name has stuck. Brandy was happy to share my sisters’ nickname for me with The Goose, so now we’re Brandy and JohnJohn when we’re at The Goose’s house.
Yesterday, board member Alex James was in a class with Dr. Scott Loss at Lake Carl Blackwell, when Dr. Loss found a Lewis’s Woodpecker. This is at least a county first, if not a first for the whole eastern half of Oklahoma. I had to get out to see this bird to get it on my state list. Since it was found during work hours, I was kind of hamstrung. And we were supposed babysit The Goose for the evening… what better way to get the kiddo hooked on birding!
We hurried to get the child and head over to the lake before it got too dark. Dr. Loss gave a good description of the location, but my luck with chasing is always lousy. We drove around the area, hoping for a chance viewing of the bird on the move, but no luck.
We parked as close to the area as we could. We were slowly approaching the tree i believe Dr. Loss had described, but before we got close, an elm still cloaked in leaves held the grunts of what I thought was a Red-headed Woodpecker. And it was. However, it revealed the Lewis’s Woodpecker to us as it flew to the Lewis’s newly declared territory and the Lewis’s met the interloper and drove it off.
Brandy and I both let out short claims of surprise and then we set The Goose’s attention to the Lewis’s as it looked for a hole to settle into for the evening. The Goose picked up a broken branch and decided that the bird may want to have a stick with it, thus offering it to the bird. We watched the bird for as long as the light allowed, with The Goose quite content with having found the bird for us and leaving the stick for the bird when we departed.
This morning, I got this text from The Goose’s mom:
“First thing from Goosie’s groggy voice this morning, ‘I love my John-John and Brandy. We finded that woodpecker together.’ ”
We sure did. And I’ll give her all the credit for our successful trip in relocating the bird. Thanks, Goose!
john polo, 19 November 2014
Great Horned Owl Release
Update, 11 June –
Dr. Brandao and his staff did a terrific job in caring for the young owl. Bill snapping and staring as fierce and wild-eyed as she should, the youngster took to the air and flew north over her crowd of fans, and on to freedom. We wish her the best and are grateful to have a resource in Stillwater that can provide such excellent care. That said, please spread the word that the bird’s parents provide even better care than we humans can: leave those baby birds alone.
Above: Dr. Joao Brandao prepares to release a young Great Horned Owl with the honorary assistance of one of the benefactors of the Avian, Exotics and Zoological Medicine Ward at OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital.
In the spring of 2014, we learned of a Great Horned Owl that had built a nest on a ledge of an academic building on the OSU campus, very near the Library. Both the location (in plain view of hundreds of people every day) and the date (found on eggs in early April – much later than normal) were unusual.
By May 18, two nestlings were alive and well, and had endured disturbances from nearby construction and thousands of graduates filing past the nest site.
By May 24, the mother no longer perched on the ledge. She instead occupied her time by keeping watch from a great vantage point on Edmond Low Library, and assisting the male in gathering food for their ravenous nestlings.
Soon thereafter, the young left their nest. Owls routinely leave the nest well before – sometimes weeks before – they can fly. The young birds took up residence in the hedges nearby.
Unfortunately, people who encountered the owls assumed that they were injured or orphaned. One of the youngsters was captured and brought to the OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, and ultimately transferred to WildCare Oklahoma in Norman. Although the bird received excellent care from humans, it was needlessly separated from its family and its natal territory. Even many weeks after a young owl is capable of flight, parents provide food and other protection. The second owl was last seen in a tree on June 15, and is presumed to have survived its post-fledging period.
This year, 2015, the owls did not return to nest in their 2014 location, but they were back on campus and they started earlier (assuming, of course, that it’s the same nesting pair). A fairly hefty young owl was brought to the OSU Veterinary Hospital on 6 May 2015. Apparently, the bird was collected from the ground somewhere near the Student Union; the original nest location remains unknown.
Dr. João Brandao, Assistant Professor of Zoological Medicine, has overseen the care of this year’s owl, providing food, hydration, and the opportunity for her to develop flight muscles in a protected flight cage. The young owl is now ready to be released, and we are invited to witness this happy event.
“We invite the public to a short lecture on wildlife rehabilitation with an emphasis on owl conservation starting at 4:20 p.m. in Room 104 at the Veterinary Medical Hospital located on West Farm Road,” said Brandao. “The owl will be released at 4:45 p.m. near the veterinary center’s flight cages located at the intersection of West Virginia Avenue and Mar Vista Street just west of the veterinary center.”
Please join us for the opportunity to celebrate a wildlife success story on June 10th, and spread the word to leave baby animals where they are – odds are they don’t need us at all.
Update 6 Jun – This morning, I found the owl’s sibling alive and well (though being harassed by a robin), high in a baldcypress at Theta Pond:
History of the Payne County Audubon Society
The National Audubon Society’s local representative asked John Couch and Helen Miller to organize a chapter of the NAS. The organization then became more formal with constitution and bylaws. Presidents were elected for 2-year terms.
Here is a list of past presidents: Helen Miller, John Couch, Scott Shalaway, Billy Teels, Helen Jordan, Freddy Miller, Linda Bryant, John Dole, John Couch, Pat Jaynes, Jerry Wilhm, Susan Walker, Tim O’Connell. Many of these individuals served as president far longer than their proscribed two-year terms. Birders tend to be busy people; it is not always easy to find someone to take on the administrative responsibilities of president.
Scott Shalaway was in the OSU Zoology Dept when he was president but left OK to live on a farm in W.VA, where he makes his living writing a nature column carried by a dozen or so newspapers, hosting a nature-oriented TV show and radio program, and, with a Canadian company, marketing high-quality wild bird food. Scott also found time to write and publish several natural history books. Billy Teels and John Dole have also gone to jobs outside of Stillwater. John Dole also published a book: Butterflies of Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Texas.
Ann Redelfs began putting out a Chapter newsletter—Feathers. Subsequent editors included Carl Wisk, Susan Walker, Coetta Lamp, and a succession of paid individuals not associated with the Chapter. Susan Walker is again (since 2005) putting out Feathers and Pinfeathers.
PCAS gave its first scholarship for bird research.
PCAS began a savings account to accumulate money for a Nature Center.
Mike Carter, an OSU graduate student and PCAS member, was given a scholarship to survey the birds of Payne County. His 3-year study resulted in the “Payne County Bird Checklist,” published by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. In 2008, 24 years later, Tim O’Connell, OSU professor, began the process of updating the checklist.
Dolly Warden developed and published the first Pinfeathers page in Feathers.
PCAS began to buy equipment for a future Nature Center. The first purchase was a “Spacemaster” spotting scope and tripod.
Helen Jordan was nominated PCAS for an award as part of the national Take Pride in America Program—listing numerous community activities of the Chapter—and we won. Helen Jordan and Helen Miller attended an awards ceremony in the State Capitol Building and were given a certificate by then governor George Nigh.
Cathy King was awarded a PCAS scholarship for work on “A Behavioral Study of Captive Maguari Storks in the U.S.” Cathy went on to do work in the international arena, married Koen Brouwer, a Dutch scientist working with storks, and now curates and does research at the Amsterdam Zoo in the Netherlands.
The National Audubon Society awarded a framed certificate to PCAS member Elaine Stebler for having obtained the most sponsors and for raising the most funds in the West Central Region* during Birdathon that year.
NAS presented PCAS with a framed certificate in appreciation of its having the largest number of Birdathon participants in the West Central Region.
The ODWC awarded Rod Soper, an OSU Zoology graduate student a contract and $156 for the construction of 14 bluebird houses to be placed “in a segment of Highway 51 between Stillwater and I-35.” Rod had to monitor the trail during the breeding season for 5 years and then “his responsibility may be transferred to the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society or other group with the Department’s approval.” Several different PCAS members, including Helen Miller, Kate Hellgren, and Olin Thomas have taken a turn at monitoring the trail since 1991 when Rod Soper relinquished responsibility. In 2007, a full 20 years later, OSU student, Hailey Deslauriers, took on the Bluebird Trail Monitoring responsibilities, followed by Jay Burtka in 2009.
1988, 1989, and 1990
PCAS donated a number of bird and environmental children’s books and bird videos to the Stillwater Public Library.
Elaine Stebler recruited Carolyn Hunger to help with Birdathon, and in 1990 the two coordinated it together. They went to both the Tulsa Audubon Society and Oklahoma City Audubon Society in February of 1990 to give presentations on “Successful Birdathon Fundraisers – Tricks of the Trade.”
Elaine Stebler won the following awards before relinquishing her direction of Birdathon in 1991:
1986 — National Audubon Society’s Birdathon Award for Most Sponsors and Most Funds Raised, West Central Region
1987 — National Audubon Society’s Birdathon Award for Most Species Counted, West Central Region
1990 — Payne County Audubon Society Award for Unselfish Devotion of Time and Effort towards Birdathon