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:

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.

How to Build a Pollinator Garden This Spring

Posted in conservation, Education, Fun Facts, Oklahoma Wildlife

Pollinator gardens and habitats in Oklahoma

As the temperatures warm and plants bloom, we welcome a variety of insects and animals back to Oklahoma, including a number of important pollinators, like bees and butterflies. May is Wildlife Month, so it’s the perfect time to get your backyard garden in shape to help these crucial creatures thrive throughout Oklahoma.

What are pollinators?

According to the National Wildlife Federation, pollinators are animals that move from plant to plant while searching for protein-rich pollen or high-energy nectar to eat. As they go, they are dusted by pollen and move it to the next flower, fertilizing the plant and allowing it to reproduce and form seeds, berries, fruits and other plant foods that form the foundation of the food chain for other species—including humans.

Pollinators are themselves important food sources for other wildlife. Countless birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians eat the protein and fat-rich eggs, larvae, or adult forms of pollinators, or feed them to their young. Pollinators play a critical role in the food supply for wildlife and people!

Key features of a pollinator habitat

In addition to providing a natural habitat into growing urban and suburban areas, pollinator habitats and gardens bring a wider variety of species of wildlife, encouraging growth and expansion of species at risk of becoming endangered.

When choosing types of plants for your yard, always use plants that are native to your area. Learn about which plants fit well into Oklahoma’s landscape with this guide from the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture by clicking here.

Here are some basic features to include in your habitat from the National Wildlife Federation:

Food: Native plants provide nectar, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, foliage, pollen and insects eaten by an exciting variety of wildlife. Feeders can supplement natural food sources.

Water: All animals need water to survive and some need it for bathing or breeding as well.

Cover: Wildlife needs places to find shelter from bad weather and places to hide from predators or stalk prey.

Places to Raise Young: Wildlife needs resources to reproduce and keep their species going. Some species have totally different habitat needs in their juvenile phase than they do as adults.

Sustainable Practices: How you manage your garden can have an effect on the health of the soil, air, water and habitat for native wildlife as well as the human community.

Pollinator habitats across Oklahoma

In public spaces, such as the Tulsa and Oklahoma City Zoos, botanic gardens and city parks, you’ll find signs for monarch waystations or pollinator gardens, certifying they’ve met requirements to provide key elements to help pollinators grow, breed and thrive.

Take a tour of monarch waystations in Oklahoma by visiting MonarchWatch’s interactive Waystation Registry, which includes schools, public parks and private residences.

Certify your habitat

Thanks to our partners at the National Wildlife Federation, it’s easy to certify your habitat online. Visit their website and follow the checklist to ensure you’ve included everything to make your garden thrive for pollinators and wildlife. You’ll then receive a certificate and a sign, flag or plaque to signify your contribution to providing habitat for pollinators in your own backyard or property. May is Wildlife Month and through May 31, you can certify your habitat for 20% off!

MonarchWatch also offers a great resource for planning and registering your pollinator habitat. More than 15,000 waystations across the United States registered as of March 2017. Click here to certify your waystation and be added to the registry.

Pollinator Resources

Check out the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma’s top picks for pollinator garden resources:

Third Blog Post Entry

Posted in Education

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