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.

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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1 Comment

  1. mbkircus said,

    As always, I enjoy your wonderful pictures. Both of birds and landscapes.

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