April 7, Oklahoma


A cold front has been passing through on a very big wind, dropping temperatures down into the high 40s and bringing rain. So I've decided to use this "indoor" time to add my bit to Riley's last report.

My Mom has indeed improved greatly and I hope her fight with sinus infections is over. She is down to 2 breathing treatments a day and several of the medications she was taking have become "as needed." All to the good. Now that she is feeling better, she and Aubrey have declared they can take care of things on their own, so Riley and I decided to take off for parts north. Didn't want to wear out our welcome! :-)

We first stayed a night with sister Nancy, then went down to High Island for some birding. Unfortunately, we were too early for the spring migration of the warblers and vireos which are probably traveling through there now. We did visit a bird refuge where there was a rookery for herons, roseate spoonbills, egrets, and such. One island on the lake was totally covered with birds--what a sight! Nancy was with us that day and that made the bird watching even more fun. For those not in my family, Nancy and her husband Jim raise horses. Right now they have an orphan colt (its mom died the same day she gave birth) that they have stalled with a baby goat for company. The two animals have bonded and are quite a delight to watch together.


Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Neotropic Cormorants (high in trees)

Great Egret landing

After leaving High Island, we headed for Austin to visit my brothers. Lloyd fixed hazelnut pancakes for us one morning, and Richard fixed waffles for us the next, so we were well taken care of. Richard took us bird watching in two different parks to look for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler that only lives on the Edwards Plateau in Texas, and we found it--very exciting! We had been hearing it and knew which tree it was in, but still took a while before we saw it. Riley and Richard both got good looks--I saw it as it flew away. We also looked for the Black-capped Vireo but had no luck. We didn't see a lot of birds but certainly had a good time walking thru the woods and seeing the ones we did. And of course, seeing the warbler made our weekend. On Monday, we stayed long enough for me to get a haircut and attend a yoga class with Beverly. What fun! I've been getting back into the habit of doing yoga every morning and this was certainly a boost for me.


Iris in front of Richard & Beverly's home
Leaving Austin, we headed directly north for Oklahoma, staying first at Lake Murray State Park, where we saw our first Pileated Woodpecker. It landed on the tree right outside the RV window and posed for us for about 2 seconds. What a great bird--Woody Woodpecker himself! We then camped in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge for a week--it's a great place and will go on our list of places we wish to stay at again. Campground even had electricity (unusual for a national park). We were still early for the main spring migration but it had definitely started. We had been there 2 days when I remarked that even though we had seen many birds, we had not seen even one warbler. The next day the trees were full of Yellow-rumped Warblers and we even saw a couple of Black & White Warblers. When we arrived, the ranger had mentioned that the Longspurs had left and the Meadowlarks arrived, but the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher had not. Our last day there, we started seeing the Scissor-tails. This is one of my favorite birds--so pretty, and when it flies it looks like a giant butterfly.

The refuge was established to protect the bison, Texas longhorn cattle, and elk in this area. The prairie dogs get a good home too. We saw 2 huge "towns;" at one we stopped the motorcycle to watch the dogs running around and a few started approaching us. Guess people having been feeding them. Many of the creeks have been dammed to form small lakes so there is plenty of water for animals. The lakes also provide fishing, and we saw a good number of fishermen. Outside of one thunderstorm with hail, the weather was wonderful. Riley got the motorcycle down and we used it to explore the park and to get to the hiking trails. We definitely got our exercise in, taking a different hike every day.


Texas Longhorns

Prairie Dog

The Wichita Mountains aren't mountains like the Rockies, but great big rocky hills and very beautiful. The woods are scrub oaks and junipers and attract lots of birds. Yea! We hardly ever see owls, so were happy on one walk near the campground to see an Eastern Screech Owl. Riley spotted it, not me, I thought it looked like part of the tree limb until I saw it through the binoculars.


Rock escarpment on Charon's Garden Trail

Old Baldy Mountain behind Lake Quanah Parker

Dam on Lake Quanah Parker (BMW in background)

Eastern Screech Owl

One area of the park is designated for "public use" which I thought confusing since isn't all of it for the "public?" In the public zone is a group of rock buildings designated as "The Holy City," where they have put on a "Passion Play" every year at Easter since the 30s. There was an open store, selling souvenirs--religious relics? :-) This seems a bit like mixing church and state to me, but it evidently fills the campground--one of the rangers asked if we were there to see the play being held this weekend. The other event that fills the campground is a Boy Scout Rendezvous. The scouts arrived last weekend and packed the place. A little loud but well behaved and cleaned up when they left. We had no complaints. When they weren't there, the place was almost empty and very quiet. Nice.

As we left the park, the winds started blowing--hard. Every bit of dirt not growing something was being lifted into the air and swirled around. We felt like we were in the "dust bowl;" there was a red haze every way we looked. This morning the weather was nice--some wind but not much--and I took a good long walk. I saw my first Eastern Bluebird this year and was thinking spring had truly arrived. Then the above-mentioned cold front hit and it feels like spring no more.

We are now in Red Rock Canyon State Park for a couple of days before heading up to Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, where we hope the spring migration of birds will catch up with us. We enjoyed this park last year on our way to Kansas and are looking forward to visiting it again. After that we will head to Colorado.

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

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Bird Diary
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March 22, 2006 Smith Oak Bird Sanctuary, High Island with Nancy
Northern Cardinals
Red-wing Blackbirds
Red-tail Hawk
Great Egrets (nesting)
Roseate Spoonbills (nesting)
Neotropic Cormorants (nesting)
Snowy Egrets (nesting)
Yellow-rumped Warblers (Audubon)
Downy Woodpecker
Common Moorhens
American Coots
Blue-winged Teal
Black-crowned Night Herons
Great Blue Herons
Little Blue Herons
White Ibis
European Starlings
Great-tailed Grackles
Cattle Egrets
Great Horned Owl (in pump house)

March 25, 2006 City Park, Austin, Texas with Richard
Golden-cheeked Warbler: m
Northern Cardinal: m
Eastern Phoebe
Black & White Warbler
Carolina Chickadees
Ruby-crowned Kinglets
Turkey Vultures
Black Vultures
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

March 26, 2006 Wild Basin Park, Austin, Texas with Richard
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Meadowlark
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Turkey Vulture
Hermit Thrush
Scrub Jays

March 29-30, 2006 Lake Murray S. P., Oklahoma
Pileated Woodpecker: f
Brown Creeper
Tufted Titmouse
Yellow-rumped Warblers (Myrtle)
Carolina Chickadees
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Dark-eyed "slate" Juncos
Pied-bill Grebe
Canada Geese
Turkey Vultures
American Crows
Cedar Waxwings
Red-shouldered Hawk
Wood Ducks: m & f
Northern Cardinal: m
Carolina Wren
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-wing Blackbirds: f
Blue Jays
Ruby-crowned Kinglets

March 31 thru April 5, 2006 Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma
Tufted Timouse
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Chipping Sparrows
White-breasted Nuthatch
Pine Siskins
Northern Cardinals: m & f
Canada Geese
Redheads: m & f
Gadwalls: m & f
Spotted Towhees
Song Sparrows
Turkey Vultures
American Crows
Red-tail Hawk
Canyon Wren
Eastern Kingbird
Merlin
Eastern Meadowlark
Great Blue Heron
Red-headed Woodpecker
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Chickadee
Barn Swallow
Northern "red-shafted" Flicker
Belted Kingfisher
Blue Jay
Black & White Warbler
Lark Sparrow
Eastern Wood Pewee
Red-shoulderd Hawk
Hairy Woodpecker
American Goldfinch: f
Wild Turkeys
Mourning Doves
Carolina Wren
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Eastern Screech Owl
Broad-winged Hawk
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Common Grackles
Killdeer

April 6-7, 2006 Red Rock Canyon S. P., Oklahoma
Eastern Bluebird
American Crow
Northern Cardinal
Carolina Chickadees
Cedar Waxwings
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Mallards & hybrids
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Wood Pewee
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Eastern Phoebe
Black & White Warbler
Turkey Vultures
Chipping Sparrow
Tufted Titmouse
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