Payne County rare birds between midweek last week and when this column went to press included several excellent sightings at Lake Carl Blackwell, which comprised Red Phalarope, Pacific Loon, Surf Scoter, late Spotted Sandpiper, and Say’s Phoebe. Other birds of note include Mountain Bluebird, Purple Finch, and a late Nashville Warbler around private residences. These are all outstanding finds especially the coastal Red Phalarope and the Mountain Bluebird of the west.
Scoters can appear in Oklahoma more often than one would think. They breed well north of here, most notably around the High Boreal Forest, and since these were all first winter birds, it would make complete sense for them to simply head south and veer off to the coastal regions. Young birds, especially on their first southern voyage aren’t quite certain of their travel route, but they will get better. Sometimes higher winds will pull them inland.
Boomer Lake had several nice findings between last week and the start of this one. One of the most interesting, though not a rarity, was a beautiful Common Loon in flight that gave excellent views of its underwing, underbelly, and exceptionally large feet, which are rarely seen.
Hardwood trees have been hosting good numbers of Eastern Bluebirds, though sadly no Mountain Bluebirds. The Mountain Bluebird usually winters most abundantly in pinyon-juniper woodlands. They will also appear in any open areas from grasslands, shrubland, and expansive agricultural fields. In the latter areas, they will hover just like our common Eastern Bluebird, but that electric blue will draw your attention to it. They are known to appear in our Panhandle region. We obtained many lovely views and photos of these insectivorous individuals, as well as several Downy, Red-bellied, and Hairy Woodpeckers. High hopes for the Pileated Woodpecker if it tires of the older growth trees, though doubtful.
Many other common migratory birds have been using Boomer Lake as a temporary stopover to obtain sustenance, like the Northern Flicker, Killdeer, American Goldfinch, and Dark-eyed Junco. Water treatment ponds have and had been seeing their share of many juvenile and first fall/winter shorebirds, a normal occurrence for the season. We are still expecting more of them, including some unusual visitors.
For purposes of entertainment, writer has a resident Carolina Wren that has been protecting the back yard. When the rear door is open, it generally comes in to visit, and not just a quick wrong turn. While moving furniture about in another room, its loud call indicated that it was in the house. It made itself comfortable on the couch while inside. A Carolina Chickadee later that week also extended its hospitality with a visit where bird feeders are stored looking for a brief nosh. Imagine that, especially if it made it to the sink for water. Good habitat is what it is.
Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!
Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and photographer living in Stillwater.