I didn’t have much down time between my trip to Texas two weeks ago and the trip my wife and I made to help our son, Merritt, and his family move to Oklahoma last week. We drove the moving truck from Prescott out to Oklahoma and back this past week, and it was a lot of sitting (2,100 miles)!
I’ve never really spent much time birding in Oklahoma until this past week. The day after unloading the truck I spent about two hours birding, and increased my Oklahoma bird list by 31 species!
Prior to my trip last week, I had only one species in my eBird account for the state of Oklahoma. Looking back at my birding records, on July 28, 1975, I was driving across the country from Tucson, Arizona to Rochester, New York with my two older sisters.
As we drove, I was on the lookout for new species to add to my life list, and in Oklahoma I saw scissor-tailed flycatchers perched on telephone wires. Until last week, this was the only bird species I had ever documented for my Oklahoma list.
What I did see this past week was pretty common stuff — Carolina chickadee, blue jay, yellow-bellied sapsucker, white-throated sparrow, cedar waxwing, etc. Nothing new for my life list, just new for my Oklahoma list. Now that we’ll be going to Oklahoma on a regular basis, I am sure my species list will grow by a lot over the next several years!
On our way home last week, we stopped along I-40 at a slough about 20 miles east of Amarillo. The slough was surrounded for miles and miles and miles by agricultural fields that had either recently been harvested or were in the process of being harvested. These fields provided sources of food (corn and milo) for thousands and thousands of geese and sandhill cranes.
I walked towards the slough, and at one point all of the birds on the water took to flight. Witnessing thousands of birds in flight was nearly overwhelming — there were so many birds it was hard to take it all in! I used my cell phone and took a couple of videos of the spectacle. If you would like to see the scene I witnessed, go to the Jay’s Bird Barn Facebook page and check out the video.
The importance of a source of water for wild birds cannot be over looked. Here in Prescott, we are blessed with a good variety of waterfowl, even though the lakes we have are man-made. If we didn’t have Watson and Willow Lakes, we wouldn’t enjoy the diversity of birds we see here, especially in winter.
Last Saturday, I went out to Willow Lake and I saw about 37 ring-billed gulls and five Bonaparte’s gulls. On Monday, I stopped by Watson Lake and saw Canada geese, an American white pelican and four Tundra swans. Just a few weeks ago, I saw a common loon at Goldwater Lake. Needless to say, our local lakes contribute to the species richness we enjoy in this area.
In celebration of Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful, and safe, weekend with friends and loved ones. While this has been a tumultuous year, we still have so much to be grateful for. As a small business owner, I am grateful for our customers who make the conscious effort to shop at our store. In this age of online shopping — especially with Covid-19 — we are grateful for every customer who enters our doors and spends money in our stores.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona—Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.