Stillwater Christmas Bird Count – 2012

As I have for several years now, I led a group of hopeful owl-watchers in the field on Saturday to one of my favorite local birding spots:  Lake Carl Blackwell.  In this, the 113th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, I was excited about our prospects to sweep the three common owls and generally enjoy a great day with mild temperatures (low 60s) and sunny skies.  At least if our crushing drought is to continue we should get to enjoy some bright, warm days.

Alas, my hopes were dashed when I awoke at 2:30 am, a full hour ahead of my alarm.  It’s not the lack of sleep that bothered me so much as the sound of the wind chimes and dancing branches outside. It was WINDY.  Curses!  I had 7 people meeting me at 4:00 am to see some owls, and I knew it would be really difficult to lure any in or hear any in the distance with that stiff wind blowing.

We piled into the van and stopped first at the OSU “boat barn”, long rumored to harbor Barn Owls.  As soon as I parked and exited the van, I heard what sounded like a screech-owl.  What luck!  Could it really be that we would be picking up owls without even trying?  No.  The tremulous whistle that sounded eerily screech-owl-y was actually a flange on a a guy wire of a utility pole, whistling when the gusts picked up to about 25 mph.  No Barn Owls either.  On to Lake Carl Blackwell . . .

Everywhere we went it was the same story:  I’d run through a series of owl calls, we’d listen carefully, and nothing would respond.  We did enjoy a beautiful starry sky and several Geminid meteors, but no owls.

Finally at the 6th stop we had a breakthrough – a Barred Owl that popped into view for a second before dashing back into the trees.  We eventually tracked him down and he and I had a little conversation to the delight of the group.  Now around 6:00 am, we moved elsewhere to hit a few other sites at the park, and specifically try to lure in a screech owl.  Eventually, an Eastern Screech-Owl did start whinnying to us from the brush, while a duet of Great Horned Owls started calling from a distant locale.  By now, the wind had finally slowed to 5-10 mph, and conditions were finally good for what we were doing.

Once the sky started to brighten and the first cardinals let us know they were awake it was time to shift from owling to early morning birding.  We did, and in various iterations of our full group of 8 birded the park until a little after 5:00 pm.  In addition to birds, we found deer, two packs of coyotes, an opossum, and nice close-up views of two armadillos late in the day.  Folks always ask what the best find of the day might have been.  I think it was the artifacts we found beneath a Great Horned Owl’s roost:  a pellet of skunk, numerous feathers of a Eurasian Collared Dove, and the mummified foot of a Barred Owl.  Yep, Great Horneds eat skunks and smaller owls, and we had proof.  It was also cool to think that this one had caught one of those exotic doves!

Here’s our final tally of 53 species from another memorable Christmas Bird Count:

Lake Carl Blackwell, Payne, US-OK
Dec 15, 2012 4:15 AM – 5:15 PM
Protocol: Traveling
5.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Christmas Bird Count at Lake Carl Blackwell – the Stillwater CBC
53 species

Cackling Goose  2
Canada Goose  128
Gadwall  8
Mallard  7
Common Goldeneye  12
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Double-crested Cormorant  123
American White Pelican  3
Great Blue Heron  3
Northern Harrier  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
American Coot  32
Bonaparte’s Gull  11
Ring-billed Gull  30
Eurasian Collared-Dove  2
Mourning Dove  4
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Great Horned Owl  3
Barred Owl  3
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Downy Woodpecker  9
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  9
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  20
American Crow  21
Carolina Chickadee  7
Tufted Titmouse  8
Red-breasted Nuthatch  6
Brown Creeper  3
Carolina Wren  5
Golden-crowned Kinglet  7
Eastern Bluebird  19
American Robin  66
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  32
Cedar Waxwing  27
Yellow-rumped Warbler  22
Spotted Towhee  4
Chipping Sparrow  3
Field Sparrow  2
Fox Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  8
Swamp Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  112
Northern Cardinal  9
House Finch  2
Pine Siskin  1
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  2

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

This entry was posted in animal behavior, birding, birds/nature, Christmas Bird Count, environment and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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