Secrets at a Glance, Birding Payne County Oklahoma
Why Go Birding in Oklahoma?
There are wonderful birding areas all over the country, but Oklahoma is clearly a world of its own, boasting 437 species as of this article. It has wetland floodplains, riparian forests, salt marshes, sloughs, scrubland, deciduous brushlands, montane regions, and some remaining grasslands. We haven’t even really discussed lake hotspots, but much of what you’re looking for can be found in central Oklahoma, some of the best kept secrets on the Central Flyway in Payne County with 274 species.
Best Kept Secret on the Central Flyway
Boomer Lake, which was completed in 1925, is an artificial reservoir with a 252- acre surface area, mean depth of 9.5 feet, and a 5 km walkpath. All throughout the year, there is excellent birding, hosting 204 species at present. Located in Payne County and with Boomer Creek as a tributary, this watershed has rich riparian forests, and abundant bass, catfish, sunfish, crappie, and saugeye to keep hungry water birds well fed and breeding in the area.
There is a heron colony that is not easily reached and a resident Bald Eagle that prove that the layout of the land is ideal. For the past two years, Green Herons have been breeding on this lake, there are sporadic Black-crowned Night-Heron nests, and this is an important stopover for most species of ducks, three out of four species of swans, and sometimes the Common Loon during the winter.
Other lovely and fruitful parks and lakes are in the vicinity for your viewing pleasure as well. There is Sanborn Lake, Lake Carl Blackwell, Teal Ridge Wetlands, Couch, Whittenberg, and Babcock Parks.
Each location is a little different and will sometimes provide different birds with a slightly different lay of the land.
Sparrows Throughout the Year
Late winter and for some birds through spring and summer, is a busy hub of activity for a number of species of sparrow genera, especially the Song, White-crowned, Clay-colored, Fox, Lincoln’s, Savannah, Grasshopper and Harris’s Sparrows, as well as the Dark-eyed Junco.
Warblers At a Glance
During spring migration, the vicinity shares space with Yellow, Orange-crowned, Wilson’s, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, and Nashville Warblers, as well as the Northern Parula. You’ll be taking your chances with fall migration, but you could likely see the Yellow, Wilson’s, and Orange-crowned species. The Yellow-rumped Warbler winters here.
Woodpeckers Are at Home Here, Too
This area is favored by many woodpeckers, especially when the spring has had a good rain. There are Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the winter, and there are plenty of Northern Flickers, Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers upon occasion.
Hawks at Their Best
For late summer, fall, and winter there are hawks to be seen. We begin with the Mississippi Kite, and there are Cooper’s, Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, Harris’s, Swainson’s, Broad-winged, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Kestrel, and Northern Harrier. If you’re very lucky, you might spot the Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks, as well as the Golden Eagle in flight.
Throughout the year, you’ll find a plethora of songbirds, especially in the spring and summer, not even mentioning migratory times, where nearly anything goes. Just as a small sample, you can see our state bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. There are also Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Painted Bunting, Brown Creeper, and many more.
Are there water and shore birds? Yes, and plenty of them at various times of the year.
What Else Could I See?
If I might add, El Nino will bring a variety of interesting avian friends during winter and spring. Since we are well into global warming, many birds are coming and going. Keep in mind that they might not be seen on the ground, for there are many that are in transit from one point to another. This includes the Sandhill and Whooping Cranes, the Snow Goose, and even the Snowy Owl. There are many others that I haven’t even touched upon, like the waterthrushes and other warblers.
Even though some people have lived in this area for years, there are some birds that do make appearances that have not been seen by many, like the elusive bitterns, thrushes, and veery. Maybe it will be your lucky day when you’re in town, as there are no hardfast rules that apply to birds. Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!
- Birding the Oklahoma Skies for Hawks
Oklahoma has the skies and the high point on Mount Scott, so why travel all the way to Hawk Mountain in PA or Hawk Ridge in Duluth, MN when you can see plenty of hawks here?
- Facts About the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
Here's a look at the Oklahoma state bird, the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, along with Deb Hirt's one of a kind photos. Come take a walk with her into the world of this beautiful bird.
- The Beautiful Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Deb Hirt's Beautiful Bird Series Highlights the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Neotropical Migrant