Stillwater News Press

Local Columnists

May 3, 2014

DEB HIRT: Life at Boomer Lake (5-4-2014)

Even though a cold snap and high winds have struck the area, it hasn’t stopped our spring influx of birds. It may have put the butterfly population on a short break, but everything will be back to normal.

The bird population is normal and very prolific, which includes the Double-crested Cormorants. These birds have been shot in the past, as they have been accused of eating too many fish. Like all cormorants, its feathers are not waterproof, and it spends a good deal of time with its feathers spread out, in order to dry them.

The Eastern Kingbird is a tyrant bird, related to the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. These birds are called tyrants, due to the fact that they fiercely protect their nests and territory. I have even seen them keep the crow at bay.

The Baltimore and Orchard Orioles have also returned to the area, and are actually blackbirds. The adult male Orchard Oriole is black and a deep chestnut color and for those of you that are familiar with the Baltimore Oriole, the adult male bird is orange-yellow and black. Both of these birds create a tightly woven pouch nest, which can withstand some of the fiercest of storms.

For those of you that like a little bling in your sightings, I just spotted the Yellow Warbler and the American Goldfinch, both in breeding plumage. Both of these bright yellow birds are very easy to spot due to their coloration. The adult male goldfinch is black-winged with a yellow body, and the adult male Yellow Warbler in breeding plumage has rusty streaks on his breast. No other warbler is as yellow as this one, so it is very easy to identify.

Also, hiding within the leaves of the trees is the little Clay-colored Sparrow, who will also forage for weed seeds on the ground. Their call is easy to identify, as it sounds nothing like a bird. It tends to buzz, like a little saw. It is very similar to both chipping and Brewer’s Sparrows.

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher forages in shrubs and openly wooded areas, mainly for spiders, insects, and insect eggs. The gnatcatchers are about as speedy as the warblers and very hard to photograph. The adult male birds have blue-gray upperparts, a faint eye ring, and white underparts. They hold their tail erect while feeding and they have a “zpee” call, very common residents at the lake.

The Eastern cottontail rabbits have been showing themselves for the past couple of weeks now. It is breeding season for them, as well.

Enjoy the life at Boomer Lake this spring, and please help out the animals by disposing of fishing line and other plastic articles. Fishing line, plastic bags, and hard plastic bottle rings can seriously hurt and kill both birds and animals by wrapping around those little throats and legs. Thanks for everything that you do to keep our animals safe.

Keep your eyes to the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding until next week!

Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and professional photographer living in Stillwater. Half of her wildlife photo sales are returned to the birds via the Payne County Audubon Society. She can be found wandering around Boomer Lake on almost a daily basis monitoring the wild bird population.

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