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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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