Spring Peepers

February 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm (Bird photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildlife)

_DSC5360-copyActually this isn’t about spring peepers, the frogs whose high pitched choruses can be heard several miles away before Spring even arrives.  But it did take me awhile to figure out that those faint calls weren’t those of an odd flock of birds.

Kite trail sign

Kite trail sign

I was hiking at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton, Oklahoma, hoping for a few nice bird photographs. The trail was the Kite Trail (after the bird) on the Dog Hollow trail network from Boulder Creek Picnic Area. I didn’t realize this wasn’t a nice level hike, so I didn’t bring my hiking poles, but negotiating the rocky hills wasn’t too bad.

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The view up top was lovely, with West Cache Creek running through a wide canyon. Not the sort of landscape you expect in Oklahoma. I loved the open hillsides studded with boulders and a few cactus here and there, and I can’t wait to see it green and flowery in another month or two.

Rufous-crowned sparrow

Rufous-crowned sparrow

My “best” bird was the rufous-crowned sparrow, which popped up when I phished to get the attention of a small flock of dark-eyed juncos.

Slate-colored junco

Slate-colored junco

Gray-headed junco

Gray-headed junco

I had seen five different woodpecker species in the refuge: hairy, downy, flicker, red-bellied, and yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The previous day I had driven to the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area near Frederick, but didn’t see the huge flocks of waterfowl that I had hoped. However, I was blown away by the sheer numbers of meadowlarks and harriers that dominated the landscape enroute and in the park itself.

Female harrier

Female harrier

Female harrier

Female harrier

Oklahoma’s central location means there is a blend of eastern and western species of flora and fauna, including the meadowlarks. It’s hard to tell them apart, with the western species having a different song (not in evidence this time of year) and more yellow near the bill.

Western meadowlark

Western meadowlark

They are pretty shy except when the testosterone-charged males perch on top of a fence post or shrub to woo the ladies. That’s the best time to get them to show off their lemon-yellow breasts with the characteristic “V” neckline.

Western meadowlark

Western meadowlark

This one (a Western I believe) was quietly tuning up his song, so he gave me a few great poses.

Eastern meadowlark (I think)

Eastern meadowlark (I think)

I went to a prairie dog town on private land near Altus to look for the McCown’s longspur, which would be a life bird for me, but the best I saw was the small flock of lark buntings in their winter duds. Their gray-blue bills are the give-away.

Lark bunting, winter plumage

Lark bunting, winter plumage

Lark bunting

Lark bunting

I drove through the farmland north of the refuge and found some lovely old barns and windmills. The barn below had a great horned owl in the upper right window in some of the images, but I only saw it when I edited the photographs!

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Something old, something new – an old windmill that pumped water, and new wind turbines near Meers, Oklahoma.

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Day is done.

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Carrizo Plain National Monument

January 9, 2016 at 5:07 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Carrizo Plain National Monument

The nice thing about being in Oklahoma in winter is that the cold, dreary days make it easy to stay inside and catch up on my photo editing. Although I miss California, I needed some down time and a chance to stop spending several hundred dollars a month in gas traveling to beautiful places year-round. Editing is a way of revisiting these places, such as the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

State Rt. 58

State Rt. 58

April 2015 was past-peak flower season in many areas of California, but enroute to the coast the hills were still kelly green in central California.

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There are patches of intensive oil/gas drilling in south-central California, but here there was only a smattering of pumpjacks.

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Carrizo Plain National Monument

The hills were drier at Carrizo Plain.

Wallace Creek

Wallace Creek

Nearly all of the wildflowers that were in profuse abundance two months earlier were gone to seed.

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The endangered San Joaquin antelope squirrels were busy harvesting seeds for their underground larders.

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Painted lady butterflies and a variety of birds were good photo subjects.

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Western meadowlark

Western meadowlark

American pipit

American pipit

Lark sparrow

Lark sparrow

Horned lark in flight

Horned lark in flight

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Dry Soda Lake in distance (a salt bed)

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Wallace Creek trail

Caliente Canyon Road

Caliente Canyon Road

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The jeep trail to Caliente Canyon had a great viewpoint, but it was rugged and rutted and not suited for a minivan. I got to a blind curve that was highly rutted, and I had to back down about 1/4 mile on the curvy road to a turnaround.

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You can see some of the dried salt bed of Soda Lake.

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Sunset

Sunset

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Avian Residents of the Southwest

January 5, 2016 at 5:23 am (Bird photography, Nature, Nature photography, Southwest Birds, Wildlife) (, , , , )

Male Gila Woodpecker

Male Gila Woodpecker

I’ve been occupied transforming 30-year-old family videos into digital movies, so I’ve been remiss in keeping the blog up to date lately. Here are some of the birds I met on my road trip from California to Oklahoma in November that didn’t make it into the previous blog entries.

Male Gila Woodpecker

Male Gila Woodpecker

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren head-on

Cactus Wren head-on

Canyon Wren

Canyon Wren

Canyon Wren

Canyon Wren

Curve-billed thrasher

Curve-billed thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

American Widgeon

American Wigeon male

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Critters and Petroglyphs, Valley of Fire

December 23, 2015 at 5:03 am (Bird photography, Nature, Nature photography, Nevada, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Bighorn sheep ewe

Bighorn sheep ewe

As promised, here are some of the critters at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

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Antelope ground squirrels hold their tails close to their rumps and are common in campgrounds and at birdfeeders like these guys. Read the rest of this entry »

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Valley of Fire

December 22, 2015 at 5:34 am (Nature, Nature photography, Nevada, Southwest Landscapes) (, )

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One of the most beautiful Western landscapes I’ve ever seen is in a Nevada state park that I would have missed if I hadn’t exchanged a little trail banter with a fellow hiker at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas this past May.

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The Valley of Fire State Park is aptly named, and the “fire” really shows its mettle at last light or in the day’s first kiss of sun. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wichita Mts NWR in winter

December 18, 2015 at 5:45 am (National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildlife)

Bison on the prairie

Bison on the prairie

It was spitting snowflakes yesterday afternoon at Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, but the bluster passed when the sun lowered itself below the frothy sea of clouds.

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It was then that I finally found the bison I had sought.  Even though there are several hundred on the refuge, I saw only four.

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I saw lots more longhorn cattle, though.  They are not “wildlife” per se, but they are here because they are a historic breed of cattle tied into the history of the West. Read the rest of this entry »

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Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona

December 14, 2015 at 6:00 am (National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Landscapes) (, , , , )

Organ Pipe cactus, Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona

Organ Pipe cactus, Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona

The distinctive organ pipe cactus is so sensitive to freezing temperatures that its northernmost range is in very southern Arizona in and near Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  However, the most noticeable cactus is the saguaro. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ajo, Arizona

December 13, 2015 at 6:01 am (Bird photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Birds, Southwest Landscapes, Wildlife) (, , , )

Mule deer doe in saguaro forest

Mule deer doe in saguaro forest

Although I chose not to visit Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge with a heavily loaded minivan due to the rugged roads, I stopped at the refuge’s visitor center in Ajo, Arizona and found out about a loop drive that was much easier to navigate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kofa NWR – Arizona Landscapes

December 12, 2015 at 6:52 am (National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Landscapes) (, )

 

Kofa NWR, Arizona sunrise

Kofa NWR, Arizona sunrise

Any excuse for a road trip:  I moved to Oklahoma for a better job, and I stopped at some scenic places enroute.

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Almost as soon as I crossed from California into Arizona I started seeing saguaro cactus. Read the rest of this entry »

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Riders in the Sand

November 28, 2015 at 8:54 am (National Parks, Video) (, , , )

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I just happened to be in a great spot to photograph these trail riders returning from an extended ride at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.  I had been looking for a vantage point to photograph the sunset without any of the numerous people in the picture.  But I didn’t mind these people, not one bit. Read the rest of this entry »

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