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Life at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Alfalfa County, OK

Updated on September 28, 2015
Young White-faced Ibises Dancing in Play
Young White-faced Ibises Dancing in Play | Source
Monarch Butterfly, an Important Pollinator
Monarch Butterfly, an Important Pollinator | Source

Can You See the Future Without Wildlife?

With all the news on climate problems, birds, animals, and plants dying off due to lack of habitat and the proper food, have you wondered what we can do to help in this battle? We still need places to live with our growing population, gasoline is a necessity to some degree, and we still must manage to make room for everything on this planet in order to balance nature so we can all survive. Is it doable? Yes, IF we take the proper action.

Texas Horned Lizard
Texas Horned Lizard | Source

How Can Birds Live in Salt?

Surprisingly, places like salt plains manage to provide habitat for many birds and animals, yet they have no vegetation. These are no small areas that are in several places in the United States, but they have a special secret. Salt plains host salt brine flies, and they hatch when water comes in contact with them. Many endangered birds or ones that are close to it nest in areas just like this. Prime examples are the neotropical Western Snowy Plover and the Interior Least Tern in Oklahoma.

Due to coloration of the salt as well as the nests themselves, the birds and animals that nest here have perfect hiding places. Since shore birds are out of the nest naturally within hours of hatching, they are able to feed themselves directly on these salt brine flies. The docile Texas Horned Lizard enjoys these flies, too.

Ralston Island
Ralston Island | Source

Valuable Habitat That Includes an Island for Nesting

Many water birds utilize these rich areas, which are not all dry. While one-third of the refuge at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge has salt flats, the remaining 32,000 acres host wetlands, scrub, prairie, woodlands and farmland. This is also important bird habitat for the endangered Whooping Crane, as well as the majestic and beautiful Sandhill Crane.

This diverse and valuable area is home to the rarest, as well as some of the most common birds in the country. Ralston Island, also on the property, is a restricted eight-acre breeding area for cormorants, herons, ibises, and egrets, located right in the middle of Great Salt Plains Lake.

Let's Go Camping at Salt Plains NWR!

selenite crystals
selenite crystals | Source

Dig For Selenite Crystals!

This important and pristine area was designated a National Wildlife Refuge in 1930 by Congress for its significance to wildlife. This well-rounded and diverse ecological area also has selenite crystals buried in the sand. The public can dig for these crystals, which are most beautiful, from April to mi-October. This is permitted due to the fact that this sends the salt brine flies to the surface for those nesting and young endangered birds that nest on the salt plains.

Red-tailed Hawk, light morph
Red-tailed Hawk, light morph | Source

We Can Save Public Lands Like These

As you can see, this diverse area prides temporary homes to large numbers of migratory birds, and is very important to a few that have very low numbers. By virtue of good and proper biological management of this area, we all can help maintain the balance of these important lives. Without birds, our foodstuffs will not grow due to the lack of pollination. Saving these lives through the allotment of land specifically for wildlife enables out society to live symbiotically with these animals.

Therefore, it is best to make certain that we save public wildlife lands as such. We cannot sell them out to big business to drill for gas and oil, or to place shopping centers in the middle of them. These are designated lands that we are already doing without that must remain pure so that we can continue life as it is. A portion of this land is farmed, and the grains that are left over feed some of the birds that reside there in season. These public lands are a win-win situation for all, so the balance of nature and humanity will allow wildlife and people to prosper for a long time to come.

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron | Source

How Else Can I Help?

You can also help by purchasing a Federal duck stamp from the United States Postal Service. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar is used to support wetland conservation. You’ll be helping to buy or lease land that will be used to propagate our birds and ensure that they will provide help with pollinating our food. You will also enjoy their presence in your daily lives.

This beautiful refuge will engage you in other ways, too. Besides digging for crystals, there is designated boating, fishing, and hunting areas. There are also places to tent and cabins to rent in order to temporarily get away from our normal busy lives for a short while. It will bring us back to nature and recharge our batteries al at the same time.

Help me help them. Save our wildlife today, and you’ll be glad that you did.

Where is Salt Plains NWR?

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker | Source
Northern Shoveler Pair
Northern Shoveler Pair | Source
Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark | Source

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 weeks ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Nell. I always have a ball on these occasional trips.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 weeks ago from England

      Great hub and the pictures are always amazing!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 9 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Norma! Glad you liked this. Some of these area venues are some of the greatest places around.

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 9 months ago from California

      Great article. So interesting and the pictures were beautiful. I love your articles and the pictures.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 13 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Katharine, I have two trips coming up this year. This month, I attend the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in western OK. Not only will I be photographing this very rare bird from a blind, but I'll also be viewing the unusual Burrowing Owl, who resides with prairie dogs. There will also be a day of birding in the scrub areas of western OK in two counties, which will net birds that I am not familiar with. In May, I'll be visiting Red Slough for a couple of days, so wish me luck on other birds that I have not been able to observe yet.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 13 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      How cool about the Selenite crystals! Never heard about that before. Of course, we have lots of wetlands here on Cape Cod, and they are so vital to the diversity of wildlife here. There is one restaurant that sits at the edge of a large salt marsh. Sitting by the picture window there is the best dining spot on the Cape!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 16 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      It is one of the best places that I have found thus far that is fairly near by, Shaloo.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 16 months ago

      Great hub...Beautiful pictures. I had never heard of this place till I read this hub.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 16 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Randa. It was a great place to visit for wildlife, too.

    • RandaHandler profile image

      Randa Awn Handler 16 months ago from USA

      Beautiful photos!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 17 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      That is the truth, Dolores. If we don't fight for what is right, the government sure won't. Heaven help us if we get a republican in office.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 17 months ago from East Coast, United States

      Some time ago a beautiful wetland preserve in my state was threatened by development. Thankfully, the government would not allow large development near the sanctuary. We need to preserve our wetlands. They were so devoured by developers in the recent past.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      That's the best way, as it takes homes away from the wildlife if it is developed. If you give me their e-mail address, I'll be more than happy to see what I can do.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 19 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Its got a paved walkway that on the weekend you'll find half the city either walking or biking there!

      The council wants to 'develop it' as in put cafes and stuff on but so far we've been able to get them to forget about developing it!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Lawrence, that truly is a fortunate place in your area. I hope that a great deal of people take advantage of it for what it says as an oasis.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 19 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Deb

      Reading this hub reminded me of how blessed we are where we live.

      Here in Hamilton we have a nature reserve along our river that literally runs less than a minute walk from our house!

      The great thing is I'm four miles from the city center but the reserve has a walking cum cycle track that runs right through the city and out the other side!

      Reserves like this are precious not just as a refuge for wildlife, but also for us to 'recharge' wandering along listening to the birds sing and trying to see if you can spot them!

      Great job

      Lawrence

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Nell! Glad you're back in the swing of things. Lots of things have been going on in the climate change arena, as well as working toward saving animals. Did you hear that UPS is no longer shipping animal parts, like shark fins? Now we have to work on Fedex!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 19 months ago from England

      I have missed your articles recently, due to my running around and not catching up, so its lovely to be back. And your information is always so useful, we need to keep our birds and animals safe, I love your photos, they are as always, outstanding!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Alicia! There's so much more work to be done on this front, as you know.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 19 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      As always, this is an informative and important hub, Deb. Thank you for continuing to share your lovely photos and for publicizing the problems of wildlife.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Faith! Thanks for sending this out for all to see that they may learn. Educating everyone about what animals must do to survive is only a small piece of information.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Jackie! Places like these are where so much is happening in the animal world. I am thankful that I gt to go here to see some of the most remarkable things that I have in a long time.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 19 months ago from southern USA

      Hi Deb,

      Thank you for sharing to bring awareness of this beautiful wildlife refuge and so glad it is still there!

      I learned a lot here as I always do reading your interesting hubs.

      The Salt Plains are fascinating.

      Sharing everywhere to get the news out.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 19 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Your bird hubs are always just more proof there is a God and He has provided for all; and not a sparrow drops to the ground that He does not know about. So we can be certain He is watching.

      The woodpecker is my favorite in these.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Patricia! Every once in a while, the USPS prints bird stamps, which is something that I enjoy for obvious reasons. I'm glad that you found this, too, as it helps me to get the word out to as many people as possible. Thanks for all your help and support.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 19 months ago from sunny Florida

      What a great idea the duck stamp is...I will have to look for those....this is such an important and informative hub...so glad to have found it today..

      Sending Angels your way this afternoon.

      ps

      shared pinned g+ tweeted

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Missy! Glad that you got to see a little of what I was close to in nature. Not sure if you misspelled anything or not, I generally just look at the content. Hope that you had a small does of nature today!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Suhail, I spend about 18 hours a week at the lake. That doesn't even count for processing photos and writing assorting articles. I also work a full time job with split shifts. It really isn't easy getting to do what I love, but it is a necessity. I also got my ornithology degree in a year.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 20 months ago from Florida

      The birds are beautiful Aviannovice, and thanks for correcting me on the stamps. That's really wonderful. :)

      Now that I stopped back by your hub, I think I spelled refuges wrong in my initial comment, I apologize.

      Take care! I'll be back to read more of your great articles. :)

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 20 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      I have a question Deb. I hope you don't mind my asking.

      How many hours on the average do you spend per week on observing birds and taking pictures?

      I know it shows through your work. I am extremely impressed in what you do with respect to wildlife conservation in general and birds conservation in particular.

      I always wondered how do you manage it.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Missy! Actually, the duck stump is a hunting and conservation stamp, not a postage stamp, though the USPS sells a couple of semi postal stamps. They still sell the breast cancer awareness stamp, where part of the proceeds goes to research, as well as the Save Vanishing Species stamp, commonly referred to as the Tiger Stamp. This stamp goes toward saving endangered species. Both of those stamps cost a little extra, and they are both for great causes.

      Yes, I really do put in a plug for what I believe in. Luckily, I have a great following for my local Sunday newspaper article. More people have been walking the lake and paying attention to nature than they ever did. People stop to talk about birds and ask questions, so I am pleased to educate wherever I can. It can be very infectious!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 20 months ago from Florida

      I know why you have all those accolades on the side there aviannovice, because you are brilliant at how you write your articles. You mainly stick to your most loved subject birds, and you know how to get the reader interested in your subject. Like if it's birds, specifically, you detail everything about them that make them special, and like this hub, you give so much great information about these wildlife refugees where they can live well, all the while incorporating a way the reader can visit them or get involved. Some wouldn't have even known you could do the simplest thing like buying a postage stamp to help.

      Great Hub! Always very interesting! Love the bird pictures! :)

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I believe in doing that, Larry. Red Slough is going to be next, so we'll see what I find there...

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

      Beautifully done, as always. So important that we preserve habitats like these.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Well, Frank, this is truly an area to be grateful for, as it brings in a lot of birds and animals. Fortunately, there are more in this country. You never know, there could be one in an area near you.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 20 months ago from Shelton

      love the photos.. love hawks.. they are so majestic.. Our future depends on wildlife... They remind us of beauty, nature and where we all came from... Love the hub :) Frank

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I will be trying my darnedest to make sure that they do, nicomp. Thanks for reading.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 20 months ago from Ohio, USA

      Great pics. We all need somewhere to live, and we have the right to pursue happiness, but hopefully places like this will be around forever.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Sha! The government preserved land years ago, but now they are trying to renege on some of those deals, which is why we must remain vigilant on overseeing this. The duck stamps are not postage stamps. They are for hunting, but those funds are used for conservation purposes.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 20 months ago from Central Florida

      What an awesome place, Deb! It's nice to hear that the government has actually done something to preserve land for our wildlife, even if it was in the 1930s. Hopefully, more land will be added to the effort.

      Love the idea of the duck stamps. I'll have to buy some the next time I need stamps.

      Thanks for this wonderful article.!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      That's why we have to continue to keep it and other salt plains around the country as it should be. The government has bee trying to drill oil on many public lands. Our motto is to keep it in the ground, Glimmer Twin Fan.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 20 months ago

      How interesting...I had no idea there was an area like this in the US. Looks beautiful and hope it stays around for a long long time to come.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thank YOU, ChitrangadaSharan, for being able to easily discover what I was trying to do. My message was definitely twofold. Cheers, and have a great week!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Mel, these are the places that we must vigilantly protect. The more petitions that we sign to help our birds, animals, and environment, the better off we will be.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 20 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent hub and I love the beautiful pictures!

      You really move around to the most wonderful places on this planet.

      I appreciate the awareness you try to create regarding the preservation of Wildlife and Environment through your very informative hubs. Each one of us have a role to play.

      Thank you for sharing!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 20 months ago from San Diego California

      Our own Snowy Plovers like our sandy beaches too where they are protected for nesting, and I imagine it is because the huge kelp piles there are full of tasty flies. Great photos and hub!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      That's right, Suhail. All we have to do is keep talking about it, and the word gets passed on.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 20 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Very informative, as usual. Awareness is all we need to create and help others to create.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, whonu. I'll always be working for animals and the environment.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 20 months ago from United States

      Nice work my friend and great photos as usual, Keep up the good work. whonu

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, manatita. We are slowly gaining hold on our public lands. Our voices are being heard.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      The thing is, MsDora, it is not the only salt plain in this country, either, nor in the world. We must just all stand strong, and not allow governments to take it with the premise of drilling for gas and oil. Dutch Shell has already pulled out of the Arctic, which is a big victory for pristine lands.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Mary! For everyone that gives others knowledge about places like this, we strengthen the awareness bond. Things are moving slowly forward, and we cannot quit now.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 20 months ago from london

      Sorry about that Deb.

      I had many, but I drove into a tree once, and felt that I became mortal (smile). So you see, you and I are in the same boat.

      Once more, a well-written and wonderful Hub. Love.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 20 months ago from The Caribbean

      Your plea comes through on behalf of the wildlife everywhere. We need to pay attention and make positive moves. The Salt Plains Refuge sounds almost magical with its selenite crystals. Thanks for these facts.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 20 months ago from New York

      Educational Deb. What a great place to preserve for wildlife. You are certainly raising awareness while showing us the beauty of what we need to save. Thanks for your valuable contribution.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I don't even have a car, manatita! I get out when I have a need, and naturally, I get across the street to my own beloved oasis.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, John, we must all do it. Share the info with everyone that you know. And if you haven't heard, we have had a major victory with Shell ceasing drilling in the Arctic. Naturally, it helped that the Pope got in on this, it surely won't hurt. I just posted an older petition for the Texas Horned Lizard, which is nearly endangered. I actually got to visit with it at the Salt Plains.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 20 months ago from london

      Do you travel much, Deb?

      You really are doing an excellent service not only for bird-lovers and the environment, but in creating awareness we so badly need.

      Salt brine? eh? Some invaluable knowledge. Lots of Love this pleasant Monday here in London, UK.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 20 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Another important ecological hub from you Deb. We need to do all we can to raise awareness of the importance of salt plains and wetlands and the need to protect the bird and animal species that live there. Great photos as always.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Billy! The best thing is that with media such as this, Facebook, and my column, news travels so fast. Then it is just a matter of repetition every once in a while. It is AMAZING how numbers have gone up with petitions. Our senators are really getting the word on how people feel. They will retaliate, too, by not giving them the votes.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Keep raising awareness and spreading the news. Articles like this one and the Boomer Lake series are invaluable.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Peg! Now is really the high time for red tails. They are usually always perched on something, surveying the territory. Amazing creatures. Yes, nowhere have I ever seen a wildlife refuge that was so perfectly made for its residents.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 20 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Interesting reveal on this amazing habitat that provides a "balance of nature and humanity" for these lovely creatures. Wonderful photos! I loved the Red Tailed Hawk and saw one around here yesterday.

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