MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 28, 2012

Wild bird watching options abound

Several viewing opportunities coming up

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Winter’s chill might be the ideal time to spot birds in the wild.

Several bird watches are scheduled through February, offering the chance to see a variety of wild birds.

The Indian Nations Audubon Society will have eagle watches the weekends of Jan. 12-13 and Jan. 26-27 on Oklahoma 80, just below Fort Gibson dam.

Club member and longtime birdwatcher Jim Harman said the best opportunity to spot an eagle comes when the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water through the dam.

“The turbines chop up the fish and shad,” Harman said.

The eagles get to feast on a fish hash – “sushi,” Harman called it.

Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge will have its annual eagle watch tours each Saturday from Jan. 19 to March 2.

Refuge visitor services specialist Chad Ford said groups as large as 40 to 45 people come to see the eagles.

“If it’s a dreary, cold day, they won’t come, but on pretty days, the more the merrier,” Ford said.

The eagle tours begin at 9 a.m. each Saturday at the refuge headquarters and last until about noon, he said.

The tour begins with a live video feed from cameras mounted at an eagle nest near the refuge entrance, Ford said. In the nest, a pair of eagles has two eggs, laid the week of Dec. 9. Eagles typically incubate eggs for 35 days before they hatch. Once the eggs hatch, both adults continually care for the young over the next 11 to 12 weeks, according to a media release.

Stops on the eagle tour include the Sandtown Woods Trail area, which once was the site of a bald eagle release program.

The refuge has binoculars and spotting scopes available for visitors.

“A couple hundred yards to the west of the nest is the perfect location, with a good pair of binoculars and a spotting scope,” Ford said.

Tenkiller State Park, north of Gore on Oklahoma 100, will have loon watches on the last two Saturdays in December, park naturalist Leann Bunn said.

“Winter is when these birds otherwise would be up north, in the northeastern United States, Canada, Alaska,” Bunn said. “They winter here.”

A variety of loons visit Tenkiller during the winter.

“Tenkiller is a clear lake and a deep lake,” Bunn said, explaining that loons are deep divers. “The loons are just attracted to this lake.”

Bunn said people are most likely to see the common loon at Tenkiller, but other loons also might be seen. They include the Pacific loon, red-throated loon and yellow-billed loon, she said.

“I know a Pacific loon has been seen here this winter,” she said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

If you go



WHAT: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge Eagle Tours.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays from Jan. 19 to March 2.

WHERE: Sequoyah Wildlife Refuge. Exit 297 off Interstate 40 at Vian, then three miles south on the county road. Watch for signs along the way.



WHAT: Fort Gibson dam eagle watches

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 12 and 26; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 13 and 27.

WHERE: Below the Fort Gibson dam, east side. On Oklahoma 80, north of Fort Gibson.



WHAT: Loon watches.

WHEN: 2 p.m. Jan. 19 and 26.

WHERE: Tenkiller State Park, Oklahoma 100, north of Gore.