Monday, April 20, 2009

The Woodward Oklahoma Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival

Wow, what a weekend. Lots of great people, lots of great birds, and lots of great fun. I've taken birders out and shown them a few rarities here and there, but never under this kind of situation. By situation I mean paying participants, and trying to make the best of a completely *$^##@ couple of mornings. That said the beauty of wild west Oklahoma charmed them all, and I managed to add a few good, some lifers, birds to the fun for most of the participants. A few well known individuals from the blogging world were attending. Sharon Steitler of the blog BirdChick (visit her site and you can see my white GMC being pulled out of the mud!), the wonderfully talanted artist and banjo picker Debby Kaspari (next time I'll bring the guitar, Debby!), and world traveler, and all around great guy Timothy Ryan of the blog From the Faraway Nearby. A number of talanted artists from the Oklahoma birding scene were also present with their photographs, sketches, and really cool colored pencil tile work.
Unfortunately I was so busy that I forgot to take any pictures except for a few from the first evening. The first night of the festival I spent cutting fence markers for the fence marking activities that were taking place over the weekend. It was nice and quiet throughout the night, and I was kept company by an adult Barn Swallow. I'm sure it was glad to have me turn the lights out in the barn at an early two in the morning. Hopefully it didn't feel as bad as I did three and a half hours later.

The first field trip was modest but we did find many of the target species I had hoped for. Boiling Springs State Park provided a Louisianna Waterthrush, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and a calling Pileated Woodpecker as well as few more common species. The Selman Ranch provided looks at Rock Wrens, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Snowy Plover, as well as the sites usual abundance of other winged visitors and residents, to include a great flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

By the time the trip was over I was pretty delirious with exhaustion and retired to the hotel room for a quick and much needed nap! A couple of hours later, refreshened and ready to go, I headed for the festival banquet, where I was surprised by a generous gift from Sue Selman in the form of an original Debby Kaspasri, Lesser Prairie Chicken watercolor. Thanks Sue and Debby, its in my office already!
Day and attempt two of the birding tour was just as interesting, well actually a little more. Cloudy skies, wet weather, and wind don't make for great birding. However we did modestly in the first half of the morning with another Northern Parula, and Lousianna Waterthrush at Boiling Springs State Park. We opted for Fort Supply Lake next and were met with Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Duck, and a number of Tree Swallows (4+). The Cooper Wildlife Management Area provided great looks at three Burrowing Owls, and a couple new species of sparrow.

We moved on to the Selman Ranch after that. Making a short stop for me, I ended up getting stuck on a muddy road and needed some assistance in getting out. If only my truck was four wheel drive, it wouldn't have been a problem. The Selman Ranch provided more Rock Wrens, Semipalmated & Snowy Plovers, a Prairie Falcon, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and lots of more common species. All in all a great time, and a great success for Oklahoma and conservation.
A few quick thoughts on my dealings in the festival.........
1) An entire day long birding tour. Don't stop till you drop!
2)Four-wheel Drive......need I say anything else.
3)Bring the wife and kids! It was a load of fun, and there was plenty for children to keep busy.
Note from wife: Maybe next year, honey, but you're wearing the toddler in a backpack!