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January 10, 2013

Dry weather influenced annual bird count

NORMAN — Cleveland County’s annual Christmas bird count was done Dec. 30, the last Sunday of the year, with a number of souls venturing out to survey the numbers and number of species of birds within the county area.

The day was a bit cold and cloudy with no wind. Deep, cold, strong winds not only keep the birds hiding but keep birders inside or not out a much. Clouds can make the lighting tricky. The consensus was that that it could have been a lot worse. This year, about 30 birders were in about a dozen different parties, ranging from one to as many as nine and a number of feeder watchers.

Mark Howery, of Norman, a non-game biologist for the Wildlife Department, is the most knowledgeable analyst of local bird populations and has been coordinating the Cleveland County effort for at least the last 10 years. He is in charge of making sure the whole circle gets covered and for compiling and analyzing data.

Mark noted that of the 111 species seen, the largest numbers were species that travel in large flocks: Red-winged Blackbird (15,555), American Robin (6,688), European Starling (2,306), Ring-billed Gull (1,011) and Dark-eyed Junco (985).

He said there were a good number for most of the waterfowl.

“In fact, this is the first time in a long time that we have picked up all of the duck species that are likely for our county area. We even picked up all of the species that we only see sporadically, such as Wood Duck, Ruddy Duck, Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser,” he said.

“This is the first year in about a decade that we have recorded all three Merganser species, and what is especially noteworthy is that all three were traveling together in one flock on the west side of Lake Thunderbird,” he said.

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