Mary Beth Stowe's Website

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Oklahoma Adventure

Tallgrass Prairie and

Osage Hills State Park

Since another storm was threatening to come in the next week, I decided not to revisit Washita on Monday but rather drive straight to Bartlesville on Sunday, do Tallgrass Prairie on Monday, and hopefully be in a better position to get to the target area on Tuesday (depending on when the thing was gonna develop). I must have revamped my itinerary a bazillion times: now that I knew much of the stuff wasn’t gonna show up till later, I was concerned about the Black-capped Vireos, so I planned on hitting Wichita Mountains last, thinking that even then, they might not be back yet! Spent Saturday doing laundry, getting supplies (including a new pair of jeans J), getting the traditional hot fudge "Saturday", and taking a walk in the local park before catching up on this.

Took off the next morning as planned, and once I got settled in the Best Western at Bartlesville I decided to make a quick reconnaissance over to Tallgrass Prairie to ensure I'd be able to find the place (particularly the lek) in the semi-dark, picking up a small flock of Harris' Sparrows at the nature trail parking area in the process.  Back at the hotel, someone had posted about their Saturday trip there, and described how they got the Henslow's first thing, but not later in the morning, so I figured I'd better get there real early (and sunrise was 6:45--ouch!)!

I was glad I made a dry run, though, cuz the highway makes a lot of twists and turns, and I couldn't find any "triangular building" in the town until I had made the turn!  (then you could tell...)  But I drove slowly with my window down once through the residential area, and decided to stop any time I heard some suspicious sparrows.  Most were Grasshoppers, of course, and unfortunately the wind was kicking up again, but what a treat to hear the whistling of the Upland Sandpipers!  Further down the road where trees were within earshot was another bonus I wasn't counting on: a Whippoorwill!  Finally just before the entrance (and in front of someone's home unfortunately) I heard a chl-DIP! and pulled over, and there was no question: a Henslow's Sparrow was singing away!

Having gotten that one under the belt I headed straight to the chicken lek, and felt a mild surge of panic when I got out and didn't hear anything (the volunteer I ran into the day before said you could hear them a lot of places), but I scanned the ridge with the scope, and sure enough, there were several unmistakable silhouettes, and some were even jumping up at each other in battle!  Couldn't hear a thing, but in that case you ID it based on the fact that it couldn't be anything else (kinda like my life GPCH we almost ran down during the storm-chasing tour two years ago...)!

So from there started the drive-a-mile bit, enjoying lots of meadowlarks, bobwhites, and more Uppy Sands, and then pulled in to hike their one-mile nature trail (they also have a three-mile one).  This was delightful, and started off through some woods where a Northern Parula was singing, and a Red-headed Woodpecker bounced from tree to tree.  In the open fields, had at least three Henslow's Sparrows singing, and one even braved the wind and sat up on a little treelet, throwing his head back with each chl-DIP!, I guess trying to intimidate his neighbor!  Unfortunately he was too far away to see any field marks, but his song gave him away!


                                                            Endless prairie                                                    Harris' Sparrows


Start of the Nature Trail


Scenes along the trail


                                                                                                                    Great Henslow’s Sparrow habitat!


                                    Monument honoring donors            Meadowlark guards the turnoff to the harder trail...

Took the Bison Loop, keeping an eye out for the reported Willets in a pond, and while I didn't find them, I did find a pond with two Little Blue Herons!  A Coot sat sheltered from the wind in another pond, and had a small flock of Blue-winged Teal in yet another (also had my state Yellowthroat in one of these ponds).  At one little patch of trees on a hill added a flock of Blue Jays, plus Bluebird, Lark Sparrow, and Bewick's Wren. But at one spot, sure enough, just like the volunteer said, you could hear the distant booming and cackling of yet more prairie chickens!  (Couldn't see them, though...)  I felt better about that, because (even though the two never meet) their vocalizations do sound different than the Lessers, so I was glad I was able to get an identifiable "listen"!  The lovely little Scissortails were of course all over (as were the Bison with their cute little calves); I think God was thinking of angels when he made those things! J (The flycatchers, not the bison…)


                                                Bison and calf                        "Gee, I’m not sure I wanna go down into that ditch!"


                                "What’re you lookin’ at?!"                       Must be something about that Caterpillar...


                                                            Sand Creek                                                                  Blue Jay

Not surprisingly, the variety of species there was rather sparse, so since my time was running out I decided to zip over to Osage Hills SP, nearly running over a Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding with some Robins by the side of the road!  Practically had the place to myself (I still can't get over the fact that they don't charge you--you wanna know what my annual California State Park Day Use Pass costs??!!  Don't ask...) and finally started picking up some of these wonderful eastern birds I keep hearing about: Red-eyed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler, and Great Crested Flycatcher to name a few!  But the best place was a little lake you can drive up to, and even before I got out of the car the welcoming committee came tearing into the tree in front of me: a brilliant little Prothonotary Warbler!  He didn't mind me at all as he sang away, and after I had walked down the dike a little and was returning, I caught him flitting around Jip--undoubtedly discovered a "friend" in the mirror... 


                        Osage Hills State Park                                                           Prothonotary Warblers  

But also there were two songsters I had to research, but my suspicions were correct: the first was what I thought was a Summer Tanager singing away (but wouldn't come out or call, naturally), but what threw me off was just a hint of burriness, so that he almost sounded like a cross between a Summer and a Scarlet to me.  But Sibley says that they can have some burriness in some of the phrases, so since they breed here and the Scarlet doesn't, I felt better about the ID (although later some OKBirders told me that there is a remnant breeding population near there).  The other was a singing Louisiana Waterthrush, very similar to the Yellow-throated Warbler we had in Tulsa, but the song was coming from the ground near the water, so I put two-and-two together...

Just kind of cruised around the park after that, enjoying the Chipping Sparrows, nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, and chickadees coming in to the seed feeder they had set up by the park office.  Gnatcatchers were of course all over, as were goldfinches.  But the best bird was circling low overhead on the way out: a nice adult Broad-winged Hawk!

Moochers at the feeders...



                  Chipping Sparrow                Tufted Titmouse                  Cardinal                Eastern Gray Squirrel








One of the trails (that I didn’t have time to hike) showing typical habitat