Sunday, January 28, 2007

Road Hawking When It's Too Cold to Paddle

Another Fence Sitter
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.

The recent cold weather has kept Dianne and I off the waters, but we still manage to have some fun outdoors. One thing we like to do when we can't go paddling is a little novice birding. Since our home near Okmulgee is rather rural, we can see a wide variety of bird life right outside our door. When the birds in the yard can't hold our interest, we drive around the back roads and do some hawking.

Hawks, owls, falcons and other birds of prey can be easily spotted perched in treetops and on fence posts along most country roads in our area. Since neither of us know anything about bird identification, we often end up posting our pictures to Flickr Groups like: Oklahoma Wildlife, The Bird Identification Help Book or Birds of Prey.

Naturally, our raptor pictures don't equal those of some of the pro photographers on Flickr. Many of them sport better camera's and lenses or shoot from more exotic locations like Alaska, but Dianne and I have a blast hunting hawks with our little Digicam.

Over time, we have even come to learn a few things from more experienced Flickr bird watchers. Eventually, we may even brach out into Digiscoping or something. Digiscoping is the practice of using a digital camera in conjunction with a spotting scope. I have seen some pretty amazing shots made this way, but for today we will stick with our super zoom camera's. Seen any cool raptors in your neck of the woods lately?

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Watching Wildlife in Oklahoma

We Failed to Surprise Two Deer
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.
Rod Foster from Elephant Rock Nature Park near Tahlequah left us a comment on the blog asking us to let everyone know that the Bald Eagles have arrived and can be viewed from the bluffs along the Illinois River at Elephant Rock. Rod also reports seeing two HUGE elk recently along Highway 10.

As longtime Oklahoma birders know, winter is the best time for eagle watching in Oklahoma. This time of year the traffic on the Illinois River gets very light and this always improves the environment for wildlife viewing. Grab that new digital camera you got for Christmas and head over to Elephant Rock Nature Park. The feeling you will get from capturing photos of an Oklahoma elk, eagle or osprey is one you won't soon forget...and a night in one of the Foster's luxury forest yurts would be the perfect conclusion.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Join the Oklahoma Winter Bird Survey

Illinois River Bird
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.

Oklahomans who enjoy feeding and watching birds can use their hobby to support conservation efforts this winter. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is asking bird watchers to participate in the 19th annual Oklahoma Winter Bird Survey.

Bird watchers can help Department biologists by choosing any two days between Jan. 11-14 to count birds at their household feeders. The information gathered from participants can then be used to help track population trends in the state's winter birds.

"By asking bird watchers across Oklahoma to take the survey, biologists can accomplish more in four days than we ever could have on our own," said Melynda Hickman, wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Department. "Since there are so many bird watchers in Oklahoma, we can use the information they gather to help us look for trends."

Hundreds of households have participated in the survey in years past, and the results can help the Department decide if bird ranges and populations are normal as well as warn of potential conservation issues. The survey involves counting birds at backyard feeders at least four times a day for two days during the survey dates and completing a form provided by the Wildlife Department.

The Wildlife Department is currently developing an extensive bird-watching resource that will be available soon at : For help identifying Oklahoma birds try this: Birds of Oklahoma: Field Guide (Our Nature Field Guides).

Participants will be able to use the bird-watching Web pages to find extensive winter bird information such as identification tips, diets, feeding behaviors and winter ranges as well as links to other birding Web sites.

Hickman said anyone who has a bird feeder can participate, but that certain efforts can be made to attract more birds to feeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is a good choice for bird feeders because of its high protein content that birds can use during the winter and because all seed-eating Oklahoma songbirds will eat it. Suet, animal fat often mixed with grains or peanut butter, is good for drawing in species such as woodpeckers and birds that don't primarily eat seeds. Finally, a source of water and cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs located near the feeders might draw more birds, Hickman said.

For detailed instructions and to take the survey, log on to and click on "2007 Winter Bird Survey."

Participants have until Feb. 12 to submit results.