NORMAN — Early Sunday morning all across Norman and environs, sleepy birders were crawling out of the warm covers, grabbing a quick breakfast and heading out into the cold. It was the appointed day for this year’s annual Christmas Bird Count.
The team of Anais Starr, John Raeside, Brian Davis and Angie Holt and Dick Gunn met by the Green Gate on South Jenkins and headed down the South Canadian River looking for Bald Eagles. They were hard to come by this year-- as were many regular reliable winter birds—but the group was soon rewarded by a quick fly-by of the eagle. It was the only one seen by counters this year.
They then drove a nearby pastures looking for ducks on ponds and sparrows in the brush. It became obvious that the bird population dynamics were different this year. A lot of the birders had suspected that last summer’s drought, hellish high temperatures and a warm winter would impact the number and distribution of species and total numbers of birds to be found. But you can have suspicions about these ups and downs, but if the Christmas count does anything, it does confirm trends and fluctuations based against past year’s surveys.
Next, they walked the outlet creek that parallels Jenkins and again we were forced to scramble to find “the usual suspects.” The team managed to get several good birds. Tey found Greater White-fronted Geese, Brown Creepers, a Hermit Thrush, an American Pipit and a Golden-crowned Kinglet and in a stroke of extreme good luck Raeside and Starr found a Townsend’s Solitaire—a western bird seldom seen in Central Oklahoma near Cherry Creek along the river.
The group of bird counters had not been out there alone. There were 11 other bird count teams and a number of feeder watchers working across a circular territory that covers Norman all the way out to Thunderbird and Draper Lakes. After a long day, most of the participants came in from the cold and repaired to Jennifer’s Kidney’s small warm house redolent with the smells of one of her traditional, lush Christmas Count suppers to tally our results.