Rainy-day birdin'
Minshall Park & Bixby Sod Farms

April 23, 2002

     Phil Floyd and I followed our noses over to Minshall Park this morning.... well, actually, we followed
Bob Germany's lead; he posted the other day that he'd seen a Green Heron over there.  It's been last summer since I saw a Green Heron and I'd never heard of Minshall Park until Bob's recent postings, so we decided to check it out for ourselves.

     Really a nice little park.  We parked the van in the lot and climbed the hill to check out the easternmost pond.  Between the Purple Martins and Barn Swallows, it was like standing in the midst of purple/blue dive-bombers that "missed me by THIS much!"  As we watched, Phil was telling me about some No. Rough-winged Swallows he'd seen near his home in Lexington when we both realized that the two swallows who were chasing each other in a virtual dogfight right overhead were Rough-winged!!  Magic!

     But no Green Heron anywhere around the pond that we could see.  So we walked over to the creek and then southeast along it, scarin' up Swamp, Song, and White-throated Sparrows, titmice, chickadees, and a Carolina Wren.  Walked across the street and continued following the creek toward Sheridan.  We found a few Hermit Thrushes skulking about down close to the ground, and watched one of them bathe in a small pool.  Also found a Brown Thrasher perched near that same pool.... maybe waitin' his turn for a bath.  A Robin bob-bob-bobbed up behind us, apparently wrestling with a worm who was just as determined NOT to end up as the bird's supper, as the bird was determined to have him.  We noticed more activity close to the ground, and up popped a male Common Yellowthroat.  He wasn't singing (I still haven't heard one sing this year, and except for Mockers and Cardinals, none of the birds we found today were singing.... well, except for the one Carolina Wren who, after we ID'ed him, apparently decided to go ahead and sing and just get it out of his system), but it'd been a long while since I'd seen a "Lone Ranger Bird," and I was tickled to see this one even without his witchety-witchin'.  And we both got great looks at him, too.

     On our way back to the van, we spotted a sparrow grazing amid the Henbit that was NOT a House Sparrow (which seem to be abundant in the area), so we quietly snuck up on it and got our first good looks at a Vesper Sparrow this year.

     Phil suggested driving on up the hill to see where the rest of the park went, and as we wound around the neighborhoods, we came across a concrete sidewalk leading back down to the western pond that we hadn't seen yet, so we parked and walked down the sidewalk, across the small bridge, through the Red-winged Blackbird cat-tails, found the most butt-ugly domestic ducks I've seen this year, and made our way over to the western (back) edge of the easternmost pond.  Lots of Canada Geese, tons o' grackles, and a couple Pied-billed Grebes back there.  Wish I could've heard the latter birds yodel---I love that sound! but for all their breeding plumage, these guys were being as silent as the songbirds.

     "But no Green Heron," Phil observed.

     "No," I agreed, and we were just turning away from the pond when all of a sudden, a small heron flew across the water from the small island, and as he landed just beyond us, I said, "well, there he is now, right on cue!!" and we both got kick-ass looks at this handsome bird.  The last bird of the morning and, ironically, our target bird that drew us to this park in the first place!  Anyway, we found 30 species for my first visit to Minshall Park, and I plan to return often and soon since it's less than a mile---at least, as the crow flies---from my apartment.

     By this time, it was startin' to rain, which we agreed seemed like good weather for visiting the Bixby sod farms.  As we drove south on Mingo, we slowed down and stopped at one high-bird-activity spot where we found a Phoebe, White-crowned Sparrow, female Cowbird, Mockingbird, Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, and watched as a Robin settled down on her nest in the crook of a tree.  Y'know, Phil and I have worked together for the past 3 years on breeding bird atlas plots in Oklahoma and we both miss doing them this year---
TERRIBLY!! but we're still having a great time looking for and finding bird nests on our respective "home turfs," Phil down in Lexington and me up here in Tulsa.  It took me the 3 years I participated in the BBA study, and Phil the 5 years he did, to learn _how_ to spot nests and birds displaying courtship and "nesting" behavior, and now that we know how, we just can't resist looking for them again this year, even if it "doesn't count" anymore.  I can hardly wait for the summer when all the baby birds begin to fly.

     We stopped at the foot of Mingo and before we'd even got out of the car, the bush beside my window was virtually overrun with about 6-7 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a couple chickadees, and one male No. Parula, who posed on the tip of a branch just above the windshield so we got great looks at his bright yellow throat.  Another Parula buzzed nearby.  When this brief bird flurry was over, we got out of the car and confirmed that the two "blobs" in the GHOwl nest are, indeed, owlets.  We explored a bit of the woods on the east side of the dead-end road and added White-throated, Swamp, and Lincoln's Sparrows to our day's "yield."

     At the lake east of Garnett, we picked up a puddle of Scaup (Lessor or Greater, we couldn't tell at that distance) and one Canvasback whose distinctive profile and canvas-colored back really set him off from the other ducks.  Also found about half-a-dozen Savannah Sparrows.  I tell ya, for a rainy day, this was gettin' to be a really good sparrow day!  I think we finished the day with _8_ sparrow species!! (and 3 of those were yearbirds for me).

     Nothing around the south side of the loop except Mockingbirds, but heading up 129th East Avenue we added several Amer. Pipits, a Harris's Sparrow, one Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and about 5-6 Greater Yellowlegs.

     Oh, we heard Towhees both in the woods at Minshall Park and down at the sod farms on Garnett, but never got to see one.  I'm not personally familiar with the call or song of the Spotted Towhee, but I can tell you this:  we heard "drink-your-teeeee!" at Minshall and "tow-HEEE" down at the sod farms.  If any of you want to send me your opinions about which species we heard, I'd be delighted to hear from you about that.

     In all, 49 species for the morning (50, if the sod farms Towhee was a Spotted...), including 8 yearbirds for me.  Not bad, not bad at all, especially for a rainy day in Tulsa........
Rainy-day birdin'
Minshall Park & Bixby Sod Farms

April 23, 2002
Story (c) copyrighted by Cyndie Browning 2002
Now you see why
I call this one the
"Lone Ranger Bird"!!
Common Yellowthroat by Steve Metz