I hope your Saturday was as summer-y as ours was in Tulsa yesterday.  I didn't hear the weather report but if it didn't reach above 80, it sure missed a good chance.

     Phil Floyd and I drove over to Woodward Park Saturday morning to see if any early spring migrants had arrived, and found, of all things, several Palm Warblers!  Looking straight up into the trees and very bright sky, all we could make out at first were the rather nondescript bellies, throats, and small beaks of 2-3 warblers moving in and out of sunlight and shade, from catkin/bloom to bloom.  Watching the birds intently, we began to discern a pronounced dark eyeline (similar to that of a Chipping Sparrow, altho' these were definitely NOT Chippers!) and thin dark malar streaks below pale cheeks, but the overall look of each bird's body was dull and dingy whitish underneath, brownish on the back, white undertail.  Then one of them tipped its head so I could see its rufous crown (again, similar to a Chipper in breeding plumage):  Palm Warbler.  I remember seeing Palm Warblers in Minnesota in May in brighter breeding plumage (in fact, the last time I saw a Palm Warbler was in Duluth, MN in May 2001), but even the male Palm we saw today was pretty dull in comparison; nonetheless, they WERE Palm Warblers.  According to the Date Guide, they're a week early and rare but with today's weather more like summer than spring, we don't mind that the birds can't read the calendar.

     We also found a 1st-year male Orchard Oriole feeding up in the treetops near the Palm Warblers.  At first, that black bib really threw us until we remembered seeing young Orchard Orioles last year with similar plumage.  And this guy was right on time, too:  April 12, according to the Date Guide.

     The songs of Robins, Blue Jays, and Cardinals drowned out almost every other bird sound except for the Brown Thrasher who chimed in late---and strangely enough, we found no wheezy Blue-gray Gnatcatchers over there.  There were also tons of people at Woodward this morning (this was about 11:00am), many of them apparently drawn by the garden show at the Tulsa Garden Center.

     I guided Phil over to Riverside Drive, between 21st and 31st, so he could see his first Purple Martins of the year, and then we headed southeast to the Bixby sod farms in search of MY first Scissor-tailed Flycatcher of the year.... and found it, along with a female Cardinal building her nest, Gnatcatchers catching gnats (have you ever watched them do that? it's hilarious, like watching sharks enjoying a feeding frenzy:  gulp! gulp! gulp!!), Lark, Savannah, and White-throated Sparrows, and 5 Amer. Pipits perched on a powerline, vigorously preening after a bath.  I don't believe I've ever seen Pipits of any flavor perched on powerlines before.  We had just about talked ourselves into believing they were Sprague's Pipits (well, except for the habitat, of course), and then one of them began bobbing its tail which Sibley says Sprague's don't do.  Oh well, so much for that possibility, but still, that was the best look I've had at an Amer. Pipit so far this year.

     We also heard our first No. Parulas of the year today, at 3-4 separate stops as we birded our way back to my apartment and a late lunch.  Found a bunch of apparently nesting Canada Geese in the marsh at the corner of 101st (I think) and Mingo (on the NE corner of the intersection where the Creek Turnpike takes a jog to the south), and finished several hours of birding with sunburns and 47 species of birds.


Update:  My birthday (April 20th) 2003 ~
     Today's my birthday, and it's an ironclad rule in my house (population: 1) that the birthday girl may do anything she chooses to celebrate.  So I went to Woodward Park to look for warblers.

     And found one, right off the bat.  After wading through the exuberant greeting songs of Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Robins, I followed my ears to a warbler song whose cadence reminded me of a very buzzy "sweet-sweet-little-more-sweet" (which is Yellow Warbler, of course.... I know that).  Except to my mind, the song sounded like a birdsong pun:  the "sweets" were verrrrrrrrrry buzzy---what I would call "salty"---while the "little more's" were bell-like whistles, in other words, "sweet."  And the singer, when I finally spotted him, was a splendid Black-throated Green Warbler.  Clearly, this bird hasn't read my field guide which says the Black-throated Green sings "zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee."  That's okay, tho'; he's singin' his own song today and as far as I know, he's still there.  Just down the hill from the covered picnic/restroom building, his song dominates that section of the hill and you should have no trouble finding him.

    I found my first Chipping Sparrow of the year, and a breeding plumage male Yellow-rumped Warbler ("Butterbutt") in the same area as the B.T. Green.  A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was "harrumping" away as he excavated a hole in a dead stump.  As I walked down toward the azalea gardens, I added Mourning Dove, Red-winged Blackbird, and Brown Thrasher to my list.  I found 8-10 bright yellow Goldfinches in a tree overlooking the lower ponds, and 2 sleeping Mallards IN the pond; they were so still, I wondered at first whether someone was teasing me by floating plastic Mallards in the pond, but then I looked closer and noticed them blinking.  As far as I know, decoys don't blink.

     One morning last spring, I birded around the azaleas with
George and Marty Kamp and learned from them to slowly and quietly prowl that area to see what birds I might scare up that I'd miss if I didn't look for them.  In this manner, I flushed a thrush (try sayin' that 3 times fast!  I dare ya...) with yellow spectacles:  a Swainson's Thrush.  These guys are rather furtive in their perching habits and hard to get a good look at.  It seems to me they always manage to perch on a branch on the OTHER side of the tree trunk from where I'm standing, but I was persistent and finally got a reeeeeeeeeeeally good look at him.  A little further on, I heard another Swainson's singing and followed my ears until I spotted him, too.  Perched about eye-level in a small tree, wings dropped down below his body, and singin' his li'l heart out.

     Then I heard another song, a kind of whispy musical rattle, not nearly as assertive as the Black-throated Green up the hill, whose song I could still hear all the way down amid the azaleas.  In fact, it was hard to tune out the B.T. Green (not to mention the cardinals and robins) in order to hear this whispy little rattle but I finally located my prey:  an Orange-crowned Warbler, singing a phrase or two in between the ooey-gooey worms he was catching and consuming
con mucho gusto, thrashing them against the branch where he perched until their guts fell out and then lappin' up the goodies.  Mmmmmmmmmmmm.... nummers!

     There seemed to be a lot of thrushes in the smaller trees around the azaleas, and I pursued another individual bird until he landed in a good spot and I got a kick-ass look at a Gray-cheeked Thrush.  Nothin' yellow about this bird, NO yellow spectacles, area around the eyes lighter gray than the rest of his face but not what I'd call a distinct eye-ring, thin dark malar streak dropping down to a splash of dark spots on his breast.  Beautiful, just beautiful, and absolutely silent.  I wished he would sing (I mean, it's my birthday and I've been good, so I should get my wish, right?) but he didn't.

     Nothing else sang out to me so I slowly headed back up the hill to my car.  A flicker was excavating for ants on the ground, a handsome male.  (I love it that God put mustaches on male flickers so you can tell 'em apart from the females.)  A bizzy hiss in another tree led me to about a dozen Cedar Waxwings and I was thrilled to see 'em.  Y'know that feeling? to "thrill"?? when you feel something tight in your chest let go and you sigh with pleasure and excitement as you watch a favorite bird??  I felt it then, thinking to myself, "ahhhhhhhhh, my birthday birds!"  Watching a flock of Cedar Waxwings pass berries to each other up and down a branch got me hooked on birding on Mother's Day 6 years ago, and I still thrill whenever I find 'em.

     I was at Woodward for an hour-and-a-half, picked up 27 species, took one family's Easter picture for them, and then headed for home.  It's absolutely glorious here today, the air crisp and clear, a slight breeze, about 55-60 degrees, the sky so blue it hurts yer eyes to look at it.  A fabulous day to be outdoors.  Happy Easter to YOU, and Happy Birthday to me.... and for those of you who wonder, I'm old enough to appreciate and young enough to enjoy!!


Update:  Mother's Day (May 11th) 2003 ~
     Six years ago today, I was introduced to the strange and wonderful world of birdwatching, and I've been hooked on it ever since.  I try to get out and bird on Mother's Day every year to celebrate the occasion.

     This morning, I drove up to Williams Center Green (in Tulsa's downtown) about 8:00 and found Jim Arterburn, Bill Carrell, and Judy Barto already there.  Jim showed me where he found the Chestnut-sided Warbler yesterday; it wasn't there this morning.  He found an Ovenbird under the hedges and the other 3 of us moved around to try to see it but I just couldn't get on the bird.  Skulking little devils, aren't they?  Jim, Judy, and Bill wandered off somewhere while I stayed behind a little while but still, I couldn't get that darned bird!  Quickly losing interest (Williams Center Green isn't interesting enough in and of itself to invite one to spend long hours there looking for ONE bird!), I walked back up the stairs across the street to see if I could SEE the Chestnut-sided Warbler whose song I was HEARING.  Jim and Judy were homing in on the same song as well but, as I just said, I was losing interest so I left them still looking, walked back up the street to my car, and drove over to Woodward Park instead.

     Now THIS was more like it:  I followed my ears to an Ovenbird singing in the azaleas and got to see him right off the bat, as well as a male Common Yellowthroat also skulking around in the azaleas and NOT singing.  I watched two Gray Catbirds hopping around on the ground right out in the open like robins while a third one sang from its perch in a small tree behind me; nothin' skulking about these guys!  In fact, after listening to about 20 minutes of their song, I began wishing someone could shut up the Catbird!!  A female Downy Woodpecker was scouring the branches of a big ol' tree for bugs, including UNDER the branches.  I don't think I've ever seen a Downy actually move along the underside of a branch for more than a foot or two but this bird would travel a yard or more UNDER the branch before moving back to the topside of it.  Maybe she's always wanted to be a nuthatch, I don't know.... in any case, while following her progress through the tree, I was privileged to watch as she fed her catch to her rusty-capped and shamelessly begging juvenile.

     I found Yellow, Wilson's, Black-and-white, and Black-throated Green Warblers in very short order and got the best look at a Blue-headed Vireo I've ever had.  It was as if someone had opened a net full of migrating birds above that one spot in the park so that all those birds were still singing and bug-hunting in the first trees where they landed!

     Mary Jackson and Montez Matzig appeared at "my spot" at about the same time (suddenly, we're a crowd!) and the 3 of us got good looks at an empidonax flycatcher with very well-defined white eye-ring, looking absolutely splendid in his fresh spring plumage.  Alas, he never uttered a sound so I'm not confident enough to call him a Least Flycatcher, even tho' I DID hear "che-bek!" from the trees up around the bathrooms when I first arrived at Woodward.  We all 3 happened to be looking up as a Mississippi Kite circled the clearing above us, then perched in the naked branches of a very tall tree and began preening.  I watched a Great Crested Flycatcher bug-hunting from a twig off to the east of where I stood with the girls, heard goldfinches calling nearby but never saw them, watched an E. Kingbird fly overhead across the clearing, and the 3 of us watched and listened at length as a female Flicker and a Starling duked it out for possession of a prime nesting hole in a dead tree.  (At one point, a Starling carrying nesting material in its bill entered the nesthole, leaving the female Flicker waiting in frustration at the entrance to the hole.)  There also seemed to be an abundance of Swainson's Thrushes present down near the azaleas.

     By that time, a plethora of mothers and families began arriving to enjoy the park for the afternoon and, not being a mother myself, I decided it was time for me to leave.

Warblers and Thrushes:
Woodward Park in spring
April 13, 2003
OKIE-BIRDERS
Story (c) Copyrighted by Cyndie Browning 2003
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