2018 Guide to Eagle Watching in Oklahoma

Posted in Education, Events, Oklahoma Wildlife

Bald Eagle Watching in Oklahoma

Winter is the prime season for bald eagle watching throughout Oklahoma. From weekend events and tours to online guides and more, it’s easy to learn the basics in spotting our country’s national bird in the Sooner State. Beginning in late November of each year, anywhere from 800-2,000 bald eagles migrate to Oklahoma from their northern breeding grounds and stay through March.

Where to find bald eagles in Oklahoma

Typically, bald eagles are found near lakes and rivers due to their preferred diet of fish, and according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the highest populations are found at the following lakes: Kaw, Keystone, Texoma, Tenkiller, Ft. Gibson, Grand, Canton, Great Salt Plains, Tishomingo and Spavinaw. Lake conditions change daily, which affects the number of bald eagles at each location, so call ahead to your preferred lake or state park to find out the eagle watch conditions for the day!

What to bring

First and foremost, dress for the weather! Winter days in Oklahoma can range from a comfortable 60 degrees to below zero, so check the weather conditions for the day and dress appropriately in layers and wear boots or closed-toe shoes for venturing out in nature.

A pair of binoculars or a spotting scope is ideal for spotting eagles. While you may be able to easily spot them with the naked eye, nothing beats seeing the detail of these miraculous birds!

A camera with a telephoto lens will help you capture photographs from afar.

quiet voice! Keep noises to a minimum when viewing eagles, as many eagles will spend the energy they would normally use hunting fleeing noises from humans.

A snack and beverage will keep you sustained while searching for eagles. Plan to spend an hour or two or more to find the best spot, get settled and start spotting.

When to view

At most Oklahoma lakes, eagles are best viewed between sunrise and 11 a.m., when they are feeding along the riverbanks and lakes; however, it’s not uncommon to spot them soaring the skies throughout the afternoon on a crisp, clear day.

Bald eagles begin their journey to Oklahoma in mid-to-late-November and fly until they find unfrozen lakes and rivers, which means the populations largely depend on how cold and harsh the winter is for our northern neighbors! December, January and February are the best months to spot the winged beauty, as they begin their journey back north beginning in early March.

Inclement weather can have an impact on eagle viewing. Check the weather before heading out and again, contact your lake or state park of choice for updated information.

Upcoming eagle watching events

  • Lake Thunderbird State Park, Norman:
    • November 25, December 9 & 30, January 6 & 20, February 3 & 17, March 3 & 17
    • Contact: 405-321-4633
  • Quartz Mountain Nature Park, Altus:
    • January 6,7,13 & 14
    • Contact: 580-563-2238
  • Arcadia Lake, Oklahoma City:
    • January 5-7
    • Contact: 405-216-7471
  • Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Jet:
    • January 5,6, 12 & 13
    • Contact: 580-626-4794
  • Sequoyah State Park, Hulbert:
    • January 13 & 27
    • Contact: 918-772-2108
  • Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Sulphur:
    • To be announced
    • Contact: 580-622-7234
  • Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge and Tenkiller State Park, Vian:
    • January 20 & 27, Feb. 3, 10 & 24, March 3
    • Contact: 918-489-5641
  • Kaw Lake, Kaw:
    • January 20
    • Contact: 580-762-9494
  • Jenks:
  • Washita National Wildlife Refuge, Clinton:
    • Wildlife tour January 6
    • Contact: 580-664-2205
  • Beavers Bend State Park, Broken Bow:
    • Daily viewing areas, December-February
    • Contact: 580-494-6556
  • Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge:
    • Self-guided tours all season
    • Contact: 580-371-2402

Resources for bald eagle watching in Oklahoma:

EVENT: Crafting Conservation in our Community on Nov. 1

Posted in Advocacy, Events, News

This event is SOLD OUT.

For more information, contact Mary Waller at Mary@wallerpr.com.

Crafting Conservation in our Community - Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Event - Nov 1

Join us for a special event celebrating the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Foundation sponsored by Stanley
Featuring beer from Marshall Brewing Company, barbecue from RibCrib and music from Cody Brewer

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 • 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Marshall Brewing Company • 618 S. Wheeling Ave. • Tulsa, Oklahoma [map]

Can’t attend, but would still like to donate to support outdoor education for Oklahoma kids? Click here!

Online ticket sales are subject to a 3% processing fee. All ticket levels are tax-deductible. You’ll receive a receipt as proof of your donation via email once you’ve registered for the event.

Selman Bat Cave Experience

Posted in conservation, Education, Events, Fun Facts, Oklahoma Wildlife

Each summer in northern Oklahoma, many visitors are lucky enough to experience the Selman Bat Watch, where hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats soar through the dusk skies in search of insects.

The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma’s board chair, Ron Suttles, joined one of the groups on a Friday night this July. The following are images, video and commentary he collected during his visit.

Around April, 500,000 – 1,000,000 pregnant female Mexican Free Tail bats migrate north to Selman.  They give birth to one pup and generally around September, the juvenile and female bats migrate south for the winter.  

Selman Bat Cave - Adult Female Bats

The first bats to emerge are the adult female bats (above).  They are much larger and are more controlled flyers than the pups that emerge later.  

Selman Bat Cave - Mexican Free-Tailed Bats in Oklahoma

The emergence of the adult female bats normally takes 45 minutes to one hour.  Since they had a short feeding the previous night, they came out early and in more concentrated numbers.  It only took about 20 minutes for the bats to emerge.  

The pups took much longer to emerge, flew more erratically, and in lighter concentrations.

The area around the Selman Bat Cave is an excellent example of short/mixed grass prairie.  The area burned a couple of years ago and there has been extensive clearing of salt cedar along the small stream that runs through the property.  The combination has transformed the Selman area to a historically accurate condition.

Selman Bat Cave - Mexican Free-Tailed Bats in Oklahoma. Photo by Ron Suttles, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation project manager for this area, Melinda Hickman, has done an amazing job of guiding the restoration, developing and overseeing the Selman Bat Cave project from its inception and shepherding the army of volunteers needed to conduct these viewings.

If you are lucky enough to be selected for a Selman Bat viewing, you will experience the premier wildlife and outdoor opportunity offered anywhere in Oklahoma. 

Selman visitors should definitely come early the day of their viewing date so they can go through Alabaster Caverns. It’s cool in the caverns and well worth adding it to the day’s experience. 

The tours happen every Friday and Saturday in July and each group is limited to 75 people. Keep an eye out in Spring 2018 for registration to open through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Registration forms must be submitted between May 31st and June 9, 2018.

For more information about the Selman Bat Watch, visit the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s website.

New Attempt to Muddy Clean Water Protections

Posted in Advocacy, conservation, News, Partners

The following is from our partners at the National Wildlife Federation on the Clean Water Rule:

The Trump Administration has just begun a two-step plan to remove protections from waters that have been safeguarded by the Clean Water Act for more than 40 years. In a process set in motion by an executive order earlier this year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken the first step to repeal the widely-supported Clean Water Rule. The second step is replacing it with a new rule that dramatically rolls back the historic scope of the Clean Water Act.

This hasty process threatens critical fish and wildlife habitat as well as the drinking water sources for 1 in 3 Americans.

The 2015 Clean Water Rule restores protections to small streams and wetlands that flow downstream into our nation’s larger, iconic waters like Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River, and the Great Lakes. These headwaters, rain-fed, and seasonal streams serve as spawning grounds, trout streams, and nesting habitat for the majority of North American waterfowl. These same waters are the source of drinking water of 117 million Americans.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers developed the Clean Water Rule after years of extensive public engagement and used the best available science and law to inform the final rule-making. During a seven month comment period, the EPA met with more than 400 stakeholders and received more than one million public comments on the rule, 87% of which were supportive. A wide range of stakeholders supported the rule – including 83% of hunters and anglers.

And now we have to do it all over again.

This time though, the Administration’s process intentionally provides very little opportunity for the many clean water stakeholders and affected communities to voice their support for a strong Clean Water Act to safeguard our drinking water and outdoor heritage. The public only has 30 days to provide input on this repeal.

February’s executive order directs the agencies to “consider” Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in a Supreme Court case when rewriting a rule that defines which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. The majority of the Supreme Court – along with the Bush and Obama administrations and every federal court of appeals to consider it since – rejected this opinion as inconsistent with the Clean Water Act.

This process contradicts the law and science that is the basis for the Clean Water Act successes of the past four decades, crippling state and federal clean water initiatives.

Small streams and headwaters serve as salmon spawning grounds which are important for everyone who loves to fish – including brown bears. Photo by Kandace Heimerr.

Rolling back the Clean Water Act in this manner could mean the loss of protections for nearly 60% of streams in the lower 48 states that don’t flow year-round. It could threaten protections for the majority of the 110 million acres of wetlands in the continental United States. It could make things worse for low income communities and communities of color that already disproportionally lack access to clean drinking water. It could expose wetlands that many communities rely on for flood protection to the threat of destruction.

If these waters lose the protection afforded them by the Clean Water Act, it would have devastating impacts on fish, wildlife, and our robust outdoor recreation economy – not to mention the water quality of the streams that provide our drinking water.

Whether for drinking, swimming, fishing, boating, or brewing, we all need clean water. And for clean water, we need strong federal Clean Water Act safeguards, not haphazard rules that disregard the science, contradict the law, and ignore public input. We need to move forward, not be set back four decades.

Take ActionAdd your voice today. Tell the EPA that you oppose any action to repeal the Clean Water Rule and efforts to diminish the common-sense protections that have safeguarded our nation’s waters for decades.

Legislative Update 2017

Posted in Advocacy, News, SQ777

The legislative session for 2017 is over and on behalf of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma (the Coalition) member organizations and board of directors, we are pleased to present the legislative update. 

Gwendolyn Caldwell with Caldwell and Associates did a great job representing our interests at the Capitol this session and we are glad to have her on board.

Thanks to the statewide network of organizations and individuals that came together in 2017 the Coalition was able to act on many different pieces of legislation.  Because of our victory on State Question 777, our presence at the Capitol has been enhanced and we have worked hard to maintain a responsible, thoughtful influence. 

Highlights from 2017 legislative session

SuccessHouse Bill 2132 was a major concern for the Coalition and we worked hard against it.  It would have established Prosperity Districts, where inside its boundaries, state laws, regulations, taxes, etc., would not apply unless they chose to adopt them.  It did not pass, but is still alive and we will watch it very closely in 2018. 

LossHB1537, creating the Water for 2060 Revolving Fund to promote efficient water use by municipalities.  It failed to pass but is still alive and we will work to support it in next session. 

Thanks to the Coalition member groups and individuals who supported and actively participated in the legislative session.   We had a great year and are looking forward to the future!

Conservation Coalition Legislative Successes

Bills the Coalition supported and were signed by Governor Mary Fallin:

SB0668Sen. Wayne Shaw, Grove and Rep. Josh West, Grove:  states the Legislature’s recognition that the primary purpose of the Scenic Rivers Act is to encourage the preservation of the areas designated as a scenic river area in their natural scenic state.

Bills the Conservation Coalition opposed and did not pass

HB1009Rep. Bobby Cleveland, Slaughterville: prohibits a game warden from entering private property for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Code based solely on the discharge of a firearm.  This hinders the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s (ODWC) ability to identify and apprehend poachers. 

HB1356Rep. Steve Kouplen, Beggs: prohibits the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from disseminating rules or instituting regulations more stringent than those provided by the Environmental Protection Agency or by federal laws. The state of Oklahoma should be allowed to make stronger laws than the federal government in order to offer greater protections to our land and water.

HB1852Rep. Leslie Osborn, Mustang: provides guidelines and an outline that would allow the state to sell, lease, or transfer Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA).  The Scenic Rivers Commission (SRC) was moved to GRDA in 2016 so the sale of GRDA could potentially be harmful to ensuring the long term support and proper funding of the SRC. 

HB2001Rep. Rick West, Heavener and Sen. Mark Allen, Spiro: would allow anyone who holds a lifetime hunting license from being required to purchase attach a tag to a killed bear.  Oklahoma has a very small bear population and this would hinder the ability to manage the number of bears hunted each year.

HB2132Rep. Charles McCall, Atoka and Sen. Greg Treat, Oklahoma City: authorizes the governor to enter into prosperity compacts.  These are “no regulation” zones that would allow businesses to pollute the air and water in the zone.  Runoff from these areas could be devastating to the urban or rural areas adjacent to the zone impacting the water, air, wildlife habitat as well as the general health of neighboring individuals. 

HB2279Rep. Terry O’Donnell, Catoosa: This bill would have repealed language relating to a moratorium on the sale or exportation of water.

SB0634Sen. Josh Brecheen, Coalgate and Rep. JJ Humphrey, Lane: permits the Board of Agriculture to publicize rules and standards for the application, use, and sale of warfarin-based pesticides to be used for exterminating feral swine. Warfarin based products may have impacts on other, non-target species.  The state needs to call for more science before using this chemical for feral hog control.

Conservation Coalition Legislative Losses

HB1537Rep. Jason Dunnington, Oklahoma City and Sen. J.J. Dossett, Sperry: This bill would have created the Water for 2060 Revolving Fund for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in the State Treasury for the purpose of promoting efficient water use by municipalities and residents of municipalities.  Water is our most precious natural resource and we must be take actions to conserve it for people and wildlife. 

HB1304Rep. Casey Murdock, Felt and Sen. Darcy Jech, Kingfisher: This bill allows a municipality to vote to remove the setback limitations on Oklahoma Swine Feeding Operations Act. This would allow a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) to exist inside a three mile radius of a city or town.  The bill does, however, offer a backstop – city/town councils must approve the close proximity. 

SB0147Sen. Mike Schulz, Altus and Rep. Casey Murdock, Felt: It allows a municipality to vote to remove the setback limitations on Oklahoma Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Act.

Looking forward

Next year we will have the opportunity to push for HB1537.  Having an opportunity to get a proactive meaningful water conservation bill will take all hands on deck and may take multiple attempts.

Working against any type of similar bill to a prosperity district bill like HB2132 will be a top priority.  Often these bills take slightly changed form in following years and take a lot of effort to kill.

A special thanks to Trout Unlimited – without the engagement of this Coalition member group, Prosperity Districts might have been a reality.