Saturday, May 20, 2017

Birding On a Shoestring: Life on the Oklahoma Panhandle


                                                              Wilson's Phalarope


                                                                   Stilt Sandpiper


                                                                Wilson's Phalarope


                                                                          Ditto


American Avocet


                                                                   Wilson's Phalarope
           

                                                                     Lark Bunting


                                                                 Western Meadowlark


                                                                      Lark Bunting
                                 

                                                               Long-billed Curlew                                                                


                                                                   Loggerhead Shrike
           

                                                                 Pronghorn Antelope


                                                                  Swainson's Hawk


                                                                        House Finch


                                                               Juvenile Say's Phoebe


                                                                    Bullock's Oriole


                                                                   Cassin's Kingbird


                                                             Female Bullock's Oriole


                                                               Male Orchard Oriole


                                                                Chipping Sparrow


                                                            White-crowned Sparrow


                                                           Male Pronghorn Antelope


                                                                    Say's Phoebe


                                                    Female Black-chinned Hummingbird


                                                       Male Black-chinned Hummingbird


Lark Sparrow


White Tailed Deer (Doe)


White Tailed Doe and Fawn (Left)


                                                                 Western Kingbird

         
                                                           Ash-throated Flycatcher


                                                                        Ditto

                       
                                                                 Canyon Towhee


                                                                  Cassin's Sparrow


                                                                    Rock Squirrel


                                                                        Mule Deer


                                                        Black-chinned Hummingbird Nest


                               


                                                                 Burrowing Owls


                                                                     Burrowing Owl


Friday, 05-12 through Monday, 05-15-17

This was a trip that I had been wishing for a little over a year, and when the opportunity arose,
my heart was filled with joy.  Photos were obtained from the entire panhandle of Oklahoma, which encompasses Beaver, Texas, and Cimarron counties. It holds a wide range of important ecological regions in the state, which makes it an unusual area for western and eastern birds to converge.

We observed long and shortgrass prairie regions,  pinyon-juniper habitat, sagebrush wild lands, brushy chaparral, mesa tablelands, Rocky Mountain foothills and rock mesa faces.  With these diverse and desert lands came a remarkable and wide range of mammals and birds, most of which I had never encountered before.

Unfortunately, I managed a quick look at one small lizard common to eastern Oklahoma and Texas and met a common garter snake.  I had hope for a prairie rattlesnake, but that wasn't in the cards for
this trip.

Many birds were seen but not photographed, like the Common and Chihuahuan Ravens and Prairie Falcon.  The Lazuli Bunting and Marsh Wren were heard, along with the Common Poorwill and Western Screech Owl.

As you can see, many beautiful mammals were captured and many birds indigenous to the region, but many more were not.  Perhaps this will create a need for a future trip, but it took nearly a day to get
here.  The journey was well worth it, and it enriched my first trip to this most important birding area.

These are lands that must be protected at any cost, for our grassland birds are in danger.  We have seen great decreases in their presence over the years and the fight for their survival is great, including the Lesser Prairie Chicken.  We must make saving their habitat a prime endeavor and you can help by donating to the cause and not buying homes here or destroying this habitat in any fashion.  Please help me help THEM.

Perhaps you will enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.  If you have an interest in this area, which I believe you will after seeing these striking animals, you can help by spending time at Black Mesa State Park and the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast caters to birders at the Black Mesa Tableland region.  Many ranchers raise cattle here and are helping to keep the ecological region alive and well.  I tip my hat to these people for this and support their efforts.




                                                               Red-headed Woodpecker


                                                                     Turkey Vulture


                                                              Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Monday, 05-15-17

The grand finale before the return trip home was in Woodward county, just east of the panhandle.
These were all species found at home, so they were just for the fun of it, and one last hurrah.  We tried for the Barred Owl, who was not co-operative, but she had young in the nest hole, so it wasn't her fault.  Our timing was poor.