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:

Take Action! Stand Against Oklahoma HB2132 and “Prosperity Districts”

Posted in Advocacy, conservation, News, Oklahoma Wildlife

Take Action against Oklahoma HB2132 and the creation of "prosperity districts"

The Oklahoma legislature is considering a bill that reflects the poor values of State Question 777, favoring large corporations over individual citizens, landowners and wildlife.

HB2132 would create “prosperity districts” in which landowners could file a petition to create a district on their own land and in turn, create most of the rules of that so-called district.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, once a district has been filed, landowners would “negotiate a revenue covenant with the state instead of paying state and local taxes, and the district would be governed by a governing board.”

More from OKPolicy.org:

If county officials do not act to deny a petition to create or expand a “Prosperity District,” citing specific deficiencies within 20 days, it will automatically go into effect. That creates a lot of potential for powerful special interests to force through these Districts by overwhelming county officials with applications. Basically, this bill could allow corporations and other special interests to create their own governments – all they need is a bit of land.

Once created, a Prosperity District could be used to get around the wishes of local government and voters. For example, a factory farm could create a Prosperity District that allows them to ignore state and local rules about waste disposal and food safety. The idea that Oklahoma should shackle its ability to regulate industrial agriculture was clearly rejected by voters last fall, when SQ 777, the so called “Right to Farm” State Question, was defeated at the polls.

With Prosperity Districts, landowners could exempt themselves from the rules that apply to the rest of us. Besides the threat to neighbors of the district, Prosperity Districts could create even more complications for Oklahoma businesses.  Businesses inside the district could be given a big competitive advantage from being exempt from many state and local regulations, while other businesses would still be subject to all these rules.

Less than six months ago, the citizens of Oklahoma struck down a bill that would have allowed corporate agriculture and companies to function with few regulations, State Question 777. As citizens and advocates for our individual rights, we will not stand for similar legislation to move forward.

The board and members of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma strongly oppose HB2132 and encourage our supporters to spread the word against this legislation.

Call, fax and email your senator and tell them we will stand up for the rights of our land, our water, our citizens and our wildlife.

How to contact your senator

  1. Call your senator at 405-524-0126
  2. Click here to fax your senator a letter instantly online
  3. Click here to email Senator Inhofe
  4. Click here to email Senator Lankford

How to spread the word

  1. Share this blog post via email with friends, family and colleagues
  2. Share on social media
    1. Right click here, save this image
    2. Upload image to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
    3. Copy and paste this text:
      1. Twitter or Instagram: I support Oklahoma’s land, water and wildlife. I stand w/ @Conserve_OK against #HB2132 and “prosperity districts.” Tell senators to VOTE NO.
      2. Twitter or Instagram: Oklahomans voted NO on #SQ777. We refuse to let large corporations ignore rules and regulations again. I stand against #HB2132!
      3. Facebook: I stand with the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma against HB2132, which would allow large corporations to create “prosperity districts” and allow them to exempt themselves from the rules that apply to the rest of us. Let’s continue to protect our land, our water, our wildlife and our rights! Contact your senators today at 405-524-0126 and urge them to vote no on HB2132.

Use the email or fax template below

Highlight the text, right click, copy. Paste the text after visiting the link to fax or email your senator. Fill in text in brackets below as appropriate before sending.


Dear Senator [last name]:

The legislation I am addressing is HB2132, which would allow the creation of “prosperity districts” for landowners in Oklahoma. This issue directly impacts Oklahoman’s right to clean and safe land and water, the conservation of wildlife and their habitats and creating a fair playing field for businesses of all sizes.

I am primarily concerned about the development of prosperity districts because HB2132 would allow large corporations to ignore state and local rules about waste disposal and food safety.

Another aspect of this same issue that could affect Oklahoma’s individual citizens and small businesses is the fact that large businesses inside so-called prosperity districts could be given an advantage from being exempt from many state and local regulations, while other businesses would still be subject to existing rules.

I will look forward to your reply expressing your opinions, and your current stance on the issue.

Thank you for your consideration of my viewpoint on this matter. I believe it is an important issue, and would like to see the legislation fail to ensure the rights of our citizens and the safety and conservation of our land, water and wildlife.

Sincerely,

Your name,
Address
Phone Number
Email Address


Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on this issue and share our posts with friends, family and colleagues encouraging them to contact their senator to vote no on HB2132.

Our stance on Oklahoma Department of Tourism & Recreation budget cuts

Posted in Advocacy, News, Oklahoma Wildlife

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The following is a statement from the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma’s board chair, Ron Suttles, on the possible closing of 16 state parks in Oklahoma:

The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is very concerned about the “hypothetical” budget cuts to the Department of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation. This negative ripple effect of closing 16 state parks is far worse than the budgetary savings potentially provided by such an action. 

These parks provide habitat for wildlife, a place for all Oklahoman’s to enjoy the great outdoors, jobs, and they feed the local economies of the towns near the parks. 

This decision should not be taken lightly by the legislature. If these parks are closed it will cost the state far more in the future to re-open them once the state finds itself in a better financial position. We encourage fiscal responsibility, but closing these parks would not be smart money management by the state of Oklahoma.