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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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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