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Texas Hill Country & Storm-Chasing

Part 12:  Hagerman NWR to Oklahoma City

More thunderstorms were predicted for the next day, but I still managed to pack the car between dumps, and interestingly Jip started right up! Headed over to the refuge, but the lousy weather kept me from hiking and doing much exploring, especially after almost getting stuck twice (those roads were slicker’n snot)!!  But the highlight was the pair of Surf Scoters in a pond on the way to the Visitor's Center; at first I only saw a female (fit Sibley's illustration of a first-spring female perfectly) and was desperately trying to digiscope her for documentation, when I saw a male swim into view!!  No mistaking him!  So I shot him as well (with the camera), and when I swung into the parking lot and saw a bunch of birders gathering, I excitedly told one of the guys, "Did you know about the scoters?!" to which he replied, "Oh, yeah; we know everything!" J Turns out the birds (at least the male) have been there for several weeks, so I guess the novelty has worn off...  After getting a map I chatted with the guys for awhile; a couple were Texbirders, and one elderly gentlemen named Lee Lemmons came up and introduced himself by saying, "Honey," (with that Texas twang) "It's ‘Lemmon’ with two M's, meaning I'm twice as sweet as a regular lemon!" J That got a laugh! They invited me to join them, but I respectfully declined; when I read Lee’s trip report later I kinda wished I had gone with them, as they had Red-headed Woodpecker, Green Heron, and Harris’ Sparrow, all which would have been good for the trip! (I might have also avoided those tense moments with the slimy roads…).

   

Vagrant Surf Scoters (female left, male right)

So I headed off doing the BBS protocol, enjoying the Dickcissels singing every two feet, a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers flying overhead (which was new), and several herons and Blue-winged Teal.  A peek into the lake at the picnic area had a dead tree full of young cormorants, and a Killdeer allowed close approach on the road.  I started down the road to the boat launch to check it out, but when Jip started sliding down the hill at a 45 degree angle I changed my mind post haste (thankfully we were able to back out of there...)!  The other iffy spot was heading down the road to Crow Hill: the road looked fine, but on one of my "get-out-and-listen" stops I couldn't take two steps without having about two inches worth of mud cling to my boots!  Naturally it was building on Jip's tires as well, so since I couldn't turn around, I headed with great trepidation to the Crow Hill parking lot, swung around, and very gingerly crawled back up that slimy hill!  (I was so nervous about getting out of there that I didn't even hike the trail!)

         

Marsh along the auto tour, road to the picnic area, and Lake Texoma

             

L-R:  Dickcissel, Red-winged Blackbird, and Killdeer and illuminated raindrops...

Bird-wise, other highlights included a pair of Bank Swallows chattering and flirting with each other, a rattling Belted Kingfisher (new for the trip), and gurgling Marsh Wrens (also new for the trip), that really do sound different than ours!  Headed on up to Oklahoma City after that, picking up a singing Swainson's Thrush for the trip at a rest stop! Getting in was a little scary, too, as the rain was coming down pretty hard in spots, and this was the first time that Mapquest really let me down: they tell you to take the freeway toward Lawton, which I did, only the airport exit was actually the other direction! So I got off and turned around, and when I did take the right exit (which indeed was a left-hand exit), someone passed me and splashed so much water on my windshield that for a brief moment I was absolutely blinded (and as one article said, at a travel time of so many feet per second, it doesn’t take long for you to get off course and have an accident)! Thankfully it cleared before any catastrophe took place, but when I took the northbound Meridian exit, again it became apparent that I was supposed to be going the other direction (and thankfully that’s where my faux pas from the first storm-chasing trip came in handy, where I stopped at the Holiday Inn Express by mistake—when I saw it coming up on the right this time, I knew I was headed in the wrong direction)! Finally got to where I was supposed to be (i.e., the full-service Holiday Inn), and again, thankfully the rain let up enough to get checked in and drag in all my stuff. Had dinner in the room, and the next day was spent doing laundry, taking care of admin stuff, and catching up on e-mail and the journal.

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