Wichita Mountains in Bloom

May 5, 2016 at 6:00 am (Butterflies, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildflowers) (, , )

Post Oak trailhead, Wichita Mts. Wildlife Refuge, Okla.

Post Oak trailhead, Wichita Mts. Wildlife Refuge, Okla.

I was on the prowl for flowers. And critters. And birds. It was the first day of May and things were a bustin’ out all over!

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I’ll start with the flowers. The Treasure Lake portion of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge had the best masses of color, with Indian paintbrush predominating.

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When I was in the San Antonio area a month ago, the roadsides were filled with paintbrush and bluebonnets.

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Other flowers are popping out here and there. I’ve yet to consult the guidebook on some of them.

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The yellow flowers appear to be a gaillardia species, in the same family as the Oklahoma state flower, the Indian Blanket.

Buckeye butterfly

Buckeye butterfly

The buckeye is one of the most beautiful butterflies.

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I had intended to hike to Post Oak Falls, as with all the rains recently they should be quite picturesque.

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But a storm was brewing and I didn’t want to take a chance.

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So I didn’t go more than 100 yards from the parking lot for these photographs.

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Last light before the raindrops

Last light before the raindrops

Stay tuned for the critters and birds!

 

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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

May 1, 2016 at 4:57 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildlife) (, , )

Scissor-tailed flycatcher

Scissor-tailed flycatcher

The bird with the impossibly long tail is the Oklahoma state bird – the scissor-tailed flycatcher. Why does it need such a long, forked tail you ask? Beats me.

Scissortail flycatcher, Ft Sill OK (6)

Supposedly it helps their aerial swoops and mid-air turns while chasing bugs. But all the other members of the flycatcher have rather normal-sized tails. What’s with this bird? Beats me.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher OK (5)

But that tail really makes the bird stand out. It’s outstanding in its field. In any field.

Scissortail flycatcher, Ft Sill OK (8)

I was happy to find several that weren’t perched on fence wire. I prefer my birds to have a natural perch. Apparently scissor-tails like solitary trees in a field, or tall stalks of prairie grass.

Scissortail flycatcher, Wichita Mts OK (2)

They will use rocks, too. The one above was at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge that borders Fort Sill.

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It’s hard getting sharp photos of them on the wing. But I managed a few passable images.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher OK (3)

You’ll notice the orange at the wing joint and the salmon wash of the underwings and lower belly.

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They breed in Texas, Oklahoma, and nearby prairie-type states. In winter they vacation in southern Mexico and Central America.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher OK (1)

They nest in trees and aren’t averse to being around urban areas with large patches of bug-producing grass, such as golf courses.

Scissortail flycatcher, Ft Sill OK (2)

Read more about this striking bird at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. 

Scissortail flycatcher, Ft Sill OK (7)

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Wichita Mountains in April

April 30, 2016 at 4:01 pm (Bird photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildflowers, Wildlife)

Mammatus clouds preceding a thunderstorm

Mammatus clouds preceding a thunderstorm

April is winding to a close and there’s been a few bouts with serious weather in the last week. The above photo wasn’t one of them, but it sure looked dramatic. The mammatus clouds preceded a thunderstorm that kept its distance to the west of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma.

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A nighthawk was flying against the darkening sky, then taking a sudden dive with his wings whirring as he tried to impress a lady somewhere on the ground.

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The black-tailed prairie dog pups are out eating fresh greens and seeds. The little ones have tails much blacker than those of their parents.

A black-tailed prairie dog pup

A black-tailed prairie dog pup

When a car pulls up they all run to the burrow, their tails flicking in unison.

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The photos above were the prairie dog town on the Holy City road. The one below is at the designated prairie dog town on the west side.

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Bison

Bison

The bison finally showed up in significant numbers, but the light was too dim to get anything other than this nice silhouette.

 

Yellow wild indigo

Yellow wild indigo

There are a few pockets of color along the roadsides.

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The antelope horns is a strange looking milkweed, but it is still needed for the monarch caterpillars.

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The prairie verbena was actually photographed at Fort Sill, though I expect to see some at the refuge soon.

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The prairie groundsel is also from Fort Sill.

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Indian paintbrush tends to color the short grasslands in groupings of red. It was certainly plentiful alongside the roads between Wichita Falls and San Antonio earlier this month.

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Resinous skullcap makes lovely little clumps.

Question Mark butterfly

Question Mark butterfly

This is a life butterfly for me. On the underside of the wings is a little curve and a small slash, which someone thought looked like a question mark.  You can see it below if you look hard enough. There’s a similar butterfly called the comma. It lacks the small slash.

 

Question mark on the Question Mark Butterfly

Question mark on the Question Mark Butterfly

My photos of the upland sandpiper aren’t that good, but I managed to get the great-crested flycatcher.

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Next post: the Oklahoma state bird!

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Spring in Oklahoma

April 17, 2016 at 7:41 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Butterflies, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Wildlife) (, )

Henbit tints the greening grass with a lavender wash

Henbit tints the greening grass with a lavender wash

Early spring began in late February here in southwest Oklahoma. Henbit is a common “weed” but when it blooms it adds a welcome flood of color to a landscape that had been brown for months. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oklahoma City National Memorial

March 28, 2016 at 5:30 am (Uncategorized)

Redbud tree and memorial chairs at former site of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

Redbud tree and memorial chairs at former site of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

Oklahoma City is 90 miles from where I now live, and visiting the national memorial dedicated to the terrorist attack of 20 years ago was on my list of things to do. However, the morning I had a medical appointment at the VA hospital there, another terrorist attack occurred thousands of miles away in Brussels, Belgium. So this would be an appropriate day to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oklahoma Critters and Such

February 16, 2016 at 4:55 am (Bird photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildlife)

Oklahoma grassland

Oklahoma grassland

There’s something so appealing about a lone tree in a sea of grass underneath a big wide sky. Don’t you just expect to see a herd of bison thundering by?

Harris's Sparrow

Harris’s Sparrow

I first saw the Harris’s sparrow at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Kansas years ago. Then I saw them at Geronimo’s Gravesite two months ago while a co-worker gave me the insider’s tour of Fort Sill. But I DIDN”T HAVE MY CAMERA. Urgh.

Harris's Sparrow

Harris’s Sparrow

I’ve been back looking for them, but no luck until Saturday. Unfortunately a sudden onslaught of visitors spooked them. Sigh.

American Kestrel male

American Kestrel male

This is the best photograph I’ve ever made of a kestrel, known in my childhood as a sparrow hawk. This guy was hunting at Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge. That refuge is the absolute saddest, most neglected refuge I’ve ever seen. The observation boardwalk was in shambles, the campground was in disuse, and what looked like storm debris was everywhere. From their website:  It is appropriate that the refuge is named for a famous Chickasaw chief and great warrior, Chief Tishomingo.  It’s sad that this kind of management represents such a great chief.

Tishomingo NWR

Tishomingo NWR – it was actually a hazard to walk on but no signs warning so

Now for some images from a beautifully managed refuge: Wichita Mountains.

Elk, Wichita Mts. Wildlife Refuge

Elk, Wichita Mts. Wildlife Refuge

It took me awhile to realize this wasn’t a “National” Wildlife Refuge like most of them in the US Fish & Wildlife system. I mean, it IS, but it’s not in the name.

Purebred Texas longhorn steer

Purebred Texas longhorn steer (or bull?)

The herd of about 300 purebred Texas longhorn cattle is one of the unique things about this refuge. They are a non-native species but because of their historic legacy in the American West, they are carefully managed to insure that legacy does not die off.

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From the refuge’s website: Shorthorn and Hereford stock were introduced into the Southwest to improve the beef qualities, and Brahma cattle to produce animals more resistant to the Texas fever tick. The true longhorn began to disappear, and by 1920 it became apparent that only prompt action could save them from extinction. Through a special Congressional appropriation, funds were made available for an intensive effort to save them. Forest Service employees Will C. Barns and John Hatton, armed with descriptions of the longhorn “type”, set forth on a 5,000-mile search for typical animals. After inspecting more than 30,000 head of Texas cattle, a herd of 20 cows, 3 bulls, 3 steers, and 4 calves was assembled, and in August 1927 they were  shipped to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

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Longhorn bulls are stockier in conformation and have much shorter horns. Steers have the longest and most dramatic horns. I guess testosterone drains the horn-building hormones???

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Head ’em up. Move ’em out! Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’….

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

As far as the birds are concerned, it’s time to break out the mating songs.

Prairie dog

Prairie dog

There are two prairie dog towns along the main road through the refuge that offer front row seats to the antics and doings of these groundhog cousins.

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These are black-tailed prairie dogs, which act and sound different from the white-tailed prairie dogs that were my neighbors in the Dinosaur National Monument housing area (Colorado.)

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Cotton boll

Cotton boll

A lot of cotton is grown in northern Texas and southwest Oklahoma. A few fields still had unharvested cotton bolls waving in the wind.

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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