Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Gecko in Oklahoma.....?

Tonight we decided to go out for Ice Cream and before we got in the car my wife noticed a gecko on our front porch. I know Herps a little, I was actually amazed by them my entire youth and had quite a collection in my bedroom. I think I had a total of seventeen reptiles at one point. Needless to say no else dared to enter my room! That said, I was never previously aware of any Geckos in Oklahoma. After a little searching I finally found a website that had decent photos of the few Geckos that can be found in our region. You know me, I was hoping for some strange southwestern gecko, one that hadn't been reported before in Comanche County, or maybe even Oklahoma. Alas, my notions of grandeur were tossed aside when I located the photo of the non-native Mediterranean Gecko. Sure enough that's what we had found. More on it tomorrow.......

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Success at the Feeder

About a week ago my daughter and I got to work on getting our long last hummingbird feeders hung. We moved into a new house over a year ago, and the final boxes are finally empty! Of course the feeders were in one of those boxes. No matter, this was a great chance for me to do something fun with Walden. She has always been just a little too small to actually mix the sugar solution, just for fear of getting hummingbird food all over the place. Well, she had a great time of mixing (and tasting) the food this time and made the process more fun than it has ever been for me! Unfortunately it was nearly dark before we got the feeder hung so there were no birds that day. I spent the following day at school, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Walden had spotted the first hummingbird at the "new" feeder, while I was gone. It couldn't have worked out any better, makes a father proud! She described it for me with all the excitement you could imagine, and then we watched the feeder together for a while and I finally got a glimpse of one as well. Needless to say we have at least three hummingbirds (all Black-chinned) coming to the feeder every day now.........till the next time!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More from Western Oklahoma

Saying good-bye is hard to do. This weekend I had to say good-bye to my favorite field truck! This was well over due though, and I am once again driving my GMC (blah!). The grey- Toyota had been through two marshbird seasons and one winter bird atlas season. Needless to say it needed a break. The G.M. Sutton Avian Research Center agreed to provide me with this truck over a year ago, my personal vehicle is two-wheel drive, and in my line of work four-wheel drive is required. I haven't figured out what I'm gonna do for future situations in my pickup, but I'm sure something may present itself.

I drove north on Rt-54 through Weatherford and the large wind power farm there. What makes me happy about these windmills is that many of them are on plowed fields for agriculture, not too many are on native prairies like the enormous farm in Harper/Woodward Counties. Some people just never get it! As if our native prairies aren't being eaten up fast enough by encroaching Red cedar. Anyway. There was also a traditional Tee-pee set up very close to the towers, which provided a classic shot of the American prairie!

I also managed to check a few locations on this quest to recover my long lost vehicle. Making time to stop and check Doby Springs, a few playa lakes in northern Laverne, as well as a few ponds. Doby Springs was pretty slow in the bird category, but it provided some nice butterflies and skippers including Monarch (left), Dun Skipper (below), Checkered White, and a lifer Western Pygmy-Blue (below right). The woodpeckers were out and about, and a surprise Philadelphia Vireo presented a great opportunity for study, no photo though.

A spring fed pond north of Laverne produced the most birds of the trip. It was chocked full of dabbling ducks, American Avocets, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, as well as a myriad of other flying friends. I had a good conversation with a landowner that I know, discussing the algal bloom in the pond. If you look closely in the avocet photo you will notice a deep green tone to the water. A light juvenile Swainson's Hawk flew over, after it became fed up with my presence. On the way home I stopped at Canton reservoir and found an adult Sabine's Gull a few hundred meters out in the water! I chased it for a while trying to get a better view but never located it again before the sun went down. I wouldn't even mention the bird if I wasn't completely sure that it was there. Hopefully someone else can confirm again today or tomorrow. I won't be able to get back up there. I watched the sunset over the lake and then headed home,
satisfied that I had finally taken care of the trucks and caught a few good species along the way. Another beautiful weekend in western Oklahoma!.....Cheers

Monday, September 15, 2008


It really is a great privilege to be bestowed the OKie-Birder-of-the-Month for September 2008 That is considering I'm an infiltrating! The only regret I have about this whole thing is the photo I gave Cindy and Phil, jeez it looks liked I crawled out of the backwoods of Pennsyltucky! Yep, that was me at the last meeting of the Wilson Ornithological Society/Association of Field Ornithologist meeting in Mobile, Alabama. Oh well!

Just in case you missed my report from the meeting
I was really surprised by all of this when Cindy contacted me, and certainly honored after sifting through some of the past recipients. I've met a good many of those past honorees and a few like Berlin Heck, John Sterling, and Kurt Meisenzahl were the first to invite me out "birding" in Southwest Oklahoma for a day. You should have heard Berlin when he saw the little pair of Bushnells I was carrying at the time. Hey what can I say, I was a broke ,soon to be father, college student....wait a second, nothings changed! Well.....all except for my equipment.

But hey, isn't that what it's all about?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Quick trip to the Wichita's

After an exam yesterday in Zoology, the first of the year for me, I decided to make a break for some calm and quiet. I walked Burma road in the Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in hopes of finding some migrants, unfortunately there were none to be found. I still had a good time though. I came up with three Black-capped Vireo's still on territory and calling. This caught me by surprise because I had figured they were out of here by now. When I got home I checked the late date in Jack Tyler's (2005) book and found that the 20th of September was the latest report for them, but the average late date he reports is the 9th of September. So I remained satisfied with naming them the birds of the day. The remainder of birds were mostly summer breeders still hanging about. The butterflies were really out and about and I came up with a few species, I'm still just learning these guys so I missed more than I identified. It was overcast and temperatures were mild, elk were bugling all over, it was nice day to be out.
The Birds

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Pied-billed Grebe,

Red-tailed Hawk, Bewick's Wren, Killdeer,

White-eyed Vireo, Black-capped Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch,

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Tufted Titmouse,

Carolina Chickadee, Rock Wren,

Northern Cardinal, Canyon Wren,

Downy Woodpecker, Great Blue Heron,

Wood Duck, Red-headed Woodpecker,

Barred Owl, Canada Goose,

The Butterflies

Pipevine Swallowtail


American Snout

Goatweed Leafwing

Hackberry Emperor

Cloudless Sulphur

Monday, September 8, 2008

Finally Back!

Wow! I know, I know it's been a while. A friend gave me some advice a while ago (Doc Revels, she probably doesn't remember telling me this, what with old-age kickin' in!), it was to not let the blog take precedence in my life. Allow it ebb and flow that way I keep myself up to-date with my work. I'm finally getting semi-caught up and am taking the opportunity to fill everybody in on my travels of late. Okay so I'm not really caught up at all, but I'll never get anything posted if I wait any longer!

Last weekend I took the opportunity to head to my favorite portions of Oklahoma, the northwest and panhandle. My goals; fix my personal truck that has been sitting in Laverne for a year, visit a few marshes and look for new ones to add in far western Oklahoma for next year's marshbird season, and visit the Selman Ranch IBA and Cimarron Bluffs WMA to get data on Lesser Prairie Chicken fence marking. Goals in place I moved out and arrived in Laverne Saturday mid-afternoon.

My truck wasn't exactly the first thing on my mind when I got there. Actually it was to go and check a few marshes and playas before the sun went down. I quickly scoured the Laverne lagoons which usually provides something (the best being a Western Grebe a few years back), and then moved on to a slough just east of Laverne. For some reason both locations were pretty slow and uneventful, not one to give up so easily I headed north. Precisely seven miles north to a small pond (the same pond that I found American Avocets nesting at this year...can you say new county record!). This little hot spot gave me plenty to look at, including Wilson's Phalaropes, Black Tern, numerous species of duck, both species of Yellowlegs, some Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers and a few other odds and ends, much better than the last two stops. Satisfied I headed back to Laverne where I dined at the local pub ("The Rusty Bucket") and then found myself slipping into my sleeping bag at the Prairie Chicken station for some much needed rest!

The morning came around and I ignored it for a short time, and then got busy getting my truck running. It was actually much better off than I had figured. A tank of new gas, some gasoline additive, air in the tires, and a quick jump and the old beast was running again. Not bad considering it hadn't been started in at least a year! Well it was almost a winning situation, I had forgotten to get my tags renewed, so a little bummed I moved on, with nothing but birds and marshes on my mind. Onward and West to the panhandle I traveled.

I spent a great deal of time checking possible marsh locations on the map, mostly in Texas and Cimarron Counties, I have a pretty good handle on the spots in Beaver County. Fortunately many of the playas are full at the moment so of course I couldn't pass those by. I still have yet to find a rail in a playa or bittern for that would probably make a pretty good study for some Master's student though. Even the very large playas were full. I got fooled into watching a Stilt Sandpiper for a while, thinking for a moment that it could have been a Curlew Sandpiper but good light finally put that quest to rest. Probably my best playa bird were two dowitchers, one a good looking Short-billed still in breeding plumage, very worn, but the golden tones along the scapulars and wings were a sure thing, the second bird never moved and had it's head resting along it's back so I never felt good about a positive on it.

White-faced Ibis were abundant my total for Texas Co. was 13, Cimarron held approximately 27+ that I know of and judging by the amount of water there were probably many more scattered throughout the county. I spent the evening in Kenton after I had received a phone call from Berlin Heck telling me about a Calliope, and Rufous Hummingbirds at a feeder, both good birds for the state. I stayed at the hitching post, which gave me a good opportunity to follow a semi-dry stream bed for a couple of miles. There were plenty of cattails but I'm not sure that it was dense enough cover. Birds were slow around the mesa and my efforts to find really suitable habitat around northern Cimarron county fizzled out, which means I probably won't survey there next year.

Monday morning after a nice breakfast I started my way back to Lawton but not before I got a call from Steve Metz, Kim Wade, and Dan Robinson who were checking playas east of Boise City, I joined them for a couple visits and picked up my lifer Western Wood-Pewee at a small abandoned farmstead turned fallout zone. After that I put my foot down on the gas, arrived at the Selman Ranch three hours later, got my fence marking data, checked out the new Cimarron Bluffs WMA for a short while and then got back to Lawton at 1am. Just in time to get enough sleep for Chemistry class at 8 am!