Mary Beth Stowe's Website

All photographs ©2005

Oklahoma Adventure

Black Kettle National Grassland

Headed down to Black Kettle after finishing Fort Supply and just did reconnaissance, and I was very thankful I had the map they sent me: it would be very easy to get lost around there, especially with all the little roads going to the natural gas tanks (Cyndie told me that Oklahoma is the leading producer of natural gas: I believe it!)!  Actually, the AAA map is misleading: it looks like the NGs cover this huge area, but it's actually very fragmented.  There are a handful of places they recommend you go for birding, but I decided to create a route that touched on the different units, and that was great fun!  The literature they sent me promised Mississippi Kites, presumably the most abundant raptor there, but there was not a one; I guess they're just not back yet.  Even in the non NG areas, the scenery was splendid (although barren, with a few riparian areas thrown in).  I was anxious to do some serious road birding the next day!

      

Scenes along the road

       

    

          

                        One of many hidden marshes with ducks (Blue-winged Teal and Mallards)                Scissor-tailed

                                                                                                                                                                         Flycatcher

Well, if the day before was a darn near perfect day, the next day was definitely "one of those days"! Had some great moments, though: instead of retracing the previous day’s route at Black Kettle, I made up a new one which hit several of the places they recommend specifically for birds, but I got a lot of road birding in as well.  I knew I was in trouble, though, when I got out at the first stop and the wind was howling again!  Nevertheless, the regulars were still singing away, including lots of Grasshopper Sparrows!  I found the map to be a mite misleading, however: at several points what they show as dirt roads are actually paved now, so that got me confused a couple of times!  But there were some nice ponds and riparian areas where things were hiding, and my first new trip bird of the day was literally being blown across my field of view: an Eastern Kingbird!  Much later on the route his western cousin showed up, so it was neat to get both species. At another pond a Spotted Towhee came in to pishing.  I've also noticed that the Redtails here are very pale compared to ours (even the tails look more pinkish than rufous)!  Near someone's cattle ranch I heard another Roadrunner but he wouldn't come out to my cooing; I've gotta quit messin' with those poor things....  There was a little bird on the top of one bush that turned out to be a Bewick's Wren just singing his head off!  The Rough-winged Swallows liked the cuts in the road: I caught one fellow with a little stick in his beak, trying to decide whether to go in his hole with me right there!  He finally did...

                       

                                              Eastern Kingbird                    Look carefully for the Rough-winged

                                                                                               Swallow that just left his nest hole!

Found the Croton Creek Brown Bin Spot, and what a place: they have a delightful little nature trail that is actually in two loops and is about a mile and a half if you do both, which I did (I desperately need the exercise).  Along the "dry" loop I kicked up a couple of Chipping Sparrows, and almost back at the car I heard the three-noted whistle of yet another Harris' Sparrow, but even better was the three-noted buzz of the Clay-colored Sparrow!  Guess they haven't left yet...(along with the Pine Siskins: had a flock of about seven at one spot as well).  But the marsh loop was lovely: had Blue-winged Teal and a pair of Wood Ducks that were exasperated with me (I flushed them at one end and then again at the other)!  I had a lovely little silver and white butterfly that a butterfly expert told me was a Common Checkered Skipper.

      

Croton Creek Nature Trail

    

Croton Marsh

              

        Back side of the trail with rickety boardwalk                Tent worms            Rough-winged     Checkered

                                                                                                                                        Swallow             Skipper