Archive for ‘Birds’

January 24, 2014

A Visit To Lake Murray Nature Center

Lake Murray Nature Center

Earlier this month, I attended a meeting at Lake Murray State Park in south central Oklahoma.  The primary reason we visited this location was to admire the new Lake Murray Nature Center below the park’s iconic Tucker Tower.  The purpose-built structure is fantastic, and all the exhibits are modern and relate to the park or the immediate area.

I also enjoyed an overnight stay at the Lake Murray Lodge.  If you haven’t been there in a while – no worries, it looks exactly the same as it has for decades! …But that is all about to change!  The park is scheduled for a major overhaul that includes a new lodge and many other exciting updates.

Of course, there’s no need to wait for the new lodge before you plan your next visit to Lake Murray!  Even in January there are a variety of things to see and do.  Check out the new nature center, the recently renovated Tucker Tower, and the parks’ rich WPA/CCC history.  On any hike or drive around the lake you are sure to see bald eagles and whole flotillas of waterfowl.  (A Lake Murray employee even reported seeing swans during my visit.)  Then there’s the best part: A visit during the off-season almost makes it feel like you have the place to yourself.

Check out their website!

January 12, 2014

Five Trumpeter Swans on Lookout Lake Today

20140112 Trumpeter Swan Line

 Five trumpeter swans — two adults and three juveniles — found their way to Lookout Lake in Osage Hills State Park this morning.  The swans have used the lake off and on this winter, with a maximum of seven swans observed on the lake at one time.

The trails around the lake are still open. However, I ask that you stay on the trail any time the swans are present.

January 11, 2014

Stories in the Snow

Animals venturing out in the snow leave a story behind. These stories, often otherwise invisible, shed light on animal behavior and provide visual clues into how critters make use of their habitat.

Snow Tracks

Snow Tracks 06The photo above, taken Tuesday, shows the imprint made by the feet and the tail feathers of a crow during landing. The crow walked up to a tree, turned left to walk down some steps, and then took flight again.

In the photo at left, we see a mouse hopped out a short distance from the rock and then returned to protective cover. At some point, a cross-country venture started here, too. But although this mouse only made one trip in this direction, a wider view shows a well-established “runway” between the rock and the tall grass in the other direction.

Both of these events are commonplace in the park, but the snow “captured” these two stories in a way that revealed something more than I could see with my eyes alone. In the first case, because I wasn’t there to witness the event, the crow’s landing and short stroll would have escaped my notice had it not been frozen in the snow until I happened along. And in the second case, even had I observed a mouse near the rock on several occasions, I probably wouldn’t have realized that a single runway existed between it and the grass had the snow not shown the cumulative track lines.

Next time snow carpets the ground, why not head outside and see what stories you can find “printed” in the snow?

December 10, 2013

Winter White: Snowfall and Swans at Osage Hills State Park

A deer passes Cabin Zero in the falling snow.

A second round of snow fell at Osage Hills State Park yesterday.  Three inches had fallen by the time it stopped late last night.  Adding to the white were five trumpeter swans that alighted on Lookout Lake yesterday shortly after noon.  Hopefully the swans will remain longer than the snow.

A deer in the snow pauses to watch me pass.

April 9, 2013

These Eggs Weren’t Laid By An Easter Bunny

 20130402 - Wild Turkey Eggs

The Easter Bunny is strange.  No other egg-laying creature hopes their eggs are discovered.

Last week, as kids geared up for Easter morning, I found some hidden eggs at Osage Hills State Park.  And from the looks of things, I wasn’t the first to find them.

A fifteen-foot-‘round boulder, a victim of erosion, calved from a sandstone wall many years ago.  It rolled away before tipping over.  From the ground, there appears little reason to climb to the top.  This low potential for discovery makes it a good site for the nest of a ground-nesting bird.

Unfortunately for the wild turkey hen that laid these eggs, something did climb to the top.

Wild turkeys make a nest in low piles of dry leaves or grass.  They lay about a dozen 2½” long brown-speckled whitish eggs and incubate them for about a month.

There were only two eggs in this unguarded nest.  Had there been more? A successful brood would leave eggshells behind.  Depredation from an egg-loving critter, like a raccoon or opossum, leaves a mess of slime and shell fragments.  But I found no broken shells and no dried egg slime.  This makes me wonder if a snake is to blame.  Snakes eat eggs by swallowing them whole.  Ten eggs would be a chore for some snakes, but we have black ratsnakes over six feet long and as big around as a man’s fist.  For a snake that size, ten eggs is a mere snack!

Or perhaps it wasn’t depredation at all.  Did something happen to the bird before she completed her clutch? Why did she abandon the nest with two eggs remaining?

20130402 - Wild Turkey Nest