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Oregon to Oklahoma

June 2003

Part 6:  Quivira NWR

The sky looked pretty threatening when I got up the next morning, but it turned out to be a perfect, cool, overcast morning at Quivira NWR. Headed to the headquarters area first, where there was all sorts of stuff singing at the info kiosk: besides the expected Dickies were Field Sparrows, American Goldfinches, both Flicker and Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cardinals, Bell's and Warbling Vireos, and Baltimore Orioles.  I swung into the Visitor's Center area to do their little paved nature trail through the woods (which was a display of various ingenious birdhouses, including a Wood Duck nest house that looked like it could survive a nuclear attack); House Wrens (appropriately) were singing all over, but new birds added here included Eastern Phoebe and Great Crested Flycatcher.

Since my time was limited I opted to just drive the roads and stop every mile rather than hike all the available trails as well, which turned out to be a great strategy.  Only had Eastern Meadowlarks this time, but Redwings and Yellow-headed Blackbirds dominated the marshes, along with the odd Great-tailed Grackle.  In the first big pool of water I came to, several White Pelicans were hanging out, as well as several kinds of distant ducks, including Ruddy and Hooded Merganser, both new for the trip.  At one stop had a spit of land where both Black and Forster's Terns were nesting, and White-faced Ibis fed alongside Black-necked Stilts.

Actually, I'm getting ahead of myself: that last bit was on the official wildlife drive, and I started at the bottom of the refuge and worked my way up, pulling over for staffers rushing to work!  At one of the first stops a white-breasted bird flew into a tree that turned out to be a Yellow-billed Cuckoo!  A female Yellow-headed Blackbird had also caught a huge dragonfly and was laboring to make short work of it...


Great-tailed Grackle and Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Most of these straight-line roads went through grassland with a few magnificent trees, and at one point I had a crowing Pheasant in the road while a Bobwhite fluttered down in front of him!  A group of Turkeys also crossed the road further on, and Eastern Kingbirds were all over.  I could hear Eastern Bluebirds calling from some of the trees, as well as another Red-headed Woodpecker (and I know it wasn't a sapsucker this time... J).  In the songbird department also had a distant Mockingbird, a rusty Brown Thrasher fluttering across the road, and a shrike doing the same thing only in a more open area.  A dead sprig in the middle of nothing had a big fuzzy-looking thing perched on it, which turned out to be a Great Horned Owl!


Grasslands that were good for pheasants (center) and turkeys (right)  

I took a spur road at one point that led to several hunting areas just to see what was down there, and had singing Grasshopper Sparrows where it met up with the county road.  On the way back out probably the best bird of the day (according to the checklist, anyway) was singing next to the road: a beautiful Indigo Bunting!  (Actually, it turned out not to be so unusual: I was mistakenly looking at the status bar for Lazuli Bunting…)

At some of the little river crossings had lots of swallows, mostly Cliffs looking over their fledglings (one fluttered down right next to the road for great shots; Mom wasn't too happy, though).  A trio of Snowy Egrets fed on some rocks, while down a ways several Black-crowned Night Herons fed along the grassy areas.  Finally making my way to the northernmost road, I found a group of Redheads fairly close to the road, but they didn't stick around.


River crossing with Snowy Egrets and baby Cliff Swallow


Cliff Swallow family (juvenile on right), and Red-winged Blackbirds (male left, female right)


View of one of many wetlands from the auto trail

As I mentioned, the Wildlife Drive was just stuffed with stuff: pelicans, ducks, grebes (a pod of Eared was new), stilts, upset Avocets, upset Killdeer, and several Wilson's Phalaropes; even had a couple more White-rumped Sandpipers.  A hen-pecked Yellow-headed Blackbird contorted right outside the car, and I was almost distracted from him by a group of Least Terns flying by.  Once back to the main road another Snowy Plover shot out of the way (they evidently use the wildlife drive to nest on), but I had to be getting on to Oklahoma City.  Taking a county road to US 53 (I think it was) I was happy to be able to pick up an obliging Upland Sandpiper on a post!  Also managed to pick up Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on the freeway for the trip. Ended up with 84 species for the morning!


White Pelicans crowd the marshes and the skies


Ruddy Ducks (female in middle), and Gadwall


Yellow-headed Blackbirds (females on left, displaying males on right)


L-R:  Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, White-faced Ibis


Female Mallard (left), Great Egret, and Killdeer


Painted Turtles

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