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Bungee-birdin' at Red Slough
April 21, 2002
The sign that says,
"you have arrived"....
the Getty Oil sign at
the foot of Mudline Road.
(c) Copyrighted by Cyndie Browning, 2002
    Yesterday (the 20th) was my birthday.  I'm old enough to know better but still young enough to enjoy.  I'm also single and I can do anything I want---and don't need to ask permission first!! so I left Tulsa about 9:30 a.m. yesterday and drove to Lockesburg, Ark. to visit friends I hadn't seen in over a year.  And on my way home, I "stopped by" Red Slough Wetland for a few hours.  Well, hey.... can _I_ help it if Red Slough just happens to lie (roughly) between Lockesburg and the turnpike????

     I found my first E. Kingbird of the season while driving east on Hwy 3.  I always love seeing the white "ruffle" on the edge of their tails.

     Later, heading west on Rt 87 out of Foreman, Ark., I was just passing the Ash Grove Cement Co. plant when I noticed a light-colored bird flying parallel to my car, and something about that bird "didn't look right" so I immediately pulled over and watched the bird until it landed on a power-line.  Got my binocs out and discovered I was looking at a Eurasian Collared-Dove, first one I've seen this year.

    At the foot of Mudline Road, I stopped for a moment to catch my breath, turn off the car radio and A/C, open the windows, get my binocs and checklist ready, and prepare myself mentally for whatever I'd find there.  (I always do that, my own little Red Slough birdin' ritual.)  And began seeing sparrows along the fenceline that I was having a hard time identifying.  I really struggled with these li'l guys' markings, and seeing one mature Lark Sparrow among them, I thought at first I must be looking at "immature" Lark Sparrows---but later in the afternoon, I began seeing lots of Savannah Sparrows (including one so close up, I almost reached out and plucked it off the spindly branch it was clinging to with my bare hand!!) and realized those earlier sparrows had to have been Savannah's, too.  (And for those of you asking yourselves, "she confused Lark Sparrows with Savannahs???" be kind and remember I'm still relatively new at this, and sparrows are hard!!)  The mustache markings and cheek patches on Savannah adults _could_ be confused with Lark Sparrows---at least, at first---especially when the darn birds won't hold still and give you a good look!

     Heading north up Mudline, I watched a female Harrier course back-and-forth across one of the fields.  That was the first hawk I ever learned to ID on my own, and I still smile in recognition whenever I see one.  I parked at the bridge and hiked east along the levee toward the observation tower.  Tons o' Coot!! and yodeling Pied-billed Grebes everywhere.  Here, I was bemoaning the lack of yodeling Grebes last week at
Minshall Park (Tulsa), and now I was virtually surrounded by the sound of it.  But except for a few No. Shovelers, Coot and Blue-winged Teal seemed to be the only waterfowl in abundance.

     Lots of Great Egrets and a few Great Blue Herons north of the levee in the next pool over.  Then I flushed an American Bittern!!  It must've been in the reeds near the water's edge, just next to where I was walking, because I never saw it until it took to the air and flew away from me.  And as I watched it, I thought to myself, "that's a---oh.... what do you call those??"  I recalled there were two kinds of whatever this was, thought of the "Least Bittern" I'd seen in Texas two years ago, and then remembered this was "American Bittern!!" and I said it out loud, just like that, so I'd remember it the next time.  It landed and promptly vanished into some reeds farther out into the water.  Another 20-30 yards further on, I flushed another one!!  Well, hey! this was a yearbird so I didn't mind seeing two in one day.  (And later, I watched a third one flying to another pool.)

     I found Double-crested Cormorants and some Gadwall out near the tower, and then decided to hike back in the other direction as there didn't look to be anything else "new" out there.  And I'm glad I did because I got to see a Black-crowned Night-Heron in flight on my way back.  (I also ran into
Herschel Raney out there---or rather, he almost ran into me!!  When I got over my surprise at seeing him there, I asked, "Herschel, how do you rate, having your truck INSIDE the gate?"

     "We have
KEYS!!" he replied, and grinned at me, then explained that he and his friend---whose name I don't recall---are surveying butterflies and dragonflies at Red Slough.)  I walked back across Mudline Road, dodging the Barn Swallows that twitter and zoom all over like tiny Kamikaze pilots, and then noticed one short-tailed swallow that didn't look like the others.  It took me a while to study him (y'know, they don't perch so you can get a good look!) until I realized I was seeing a Cliff Swallow (pale reddish rump, altho' I didn't get a very good look at its face and only once thought I saw the white forehead).  It wasn't one of Berlin's Bank Swallows, tho'; the chin and breast weren't broken by a brown band.  I haven't seen a Cliff Swallow since LAST May so I was pleased to find this one.

     The farther away from the bridge I got, the slower the swallow activity, altho' several seemed to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, flying west along the creek, and two began "dueling" with each other in flight.  Their calls sounded flatter than those of the Barn Swallows so I followed them with my binocs and finally got a good look at the blue-green back of a male Tree Swallow!!  I haven't seen a Tree Swallow in Oklahoma since April of LAST year, out at Sequoyah NWR.  WOW!!  TWO new swallow species in the space of 10 minutes!

     From the observation tower west of Mudline Road, I watched a flock of 8 BLUE and 4 WHITE Little Blue Herons flying east, then spotted what looked like a carful of birders some distance north of the bridge.  I thought, "THAT looks like fun!"  (I knew the OKC Auduboners had planned to be at the Slough "today" but hadn't run into 'em yet) so I hiked back to my car and drove up to see who they were and what they were lookin' at.  And discovered Sheila, Iris, and Jean from Enid---"the girls," as I think of them, and another friend.  I first met "the girls" at the OOS Spring Meeting at Black Mesa in April 2000, and I run into them around Oklahoma every-now-and-again.  I got out of my car and called, "hey, you girls lost???"  (I mean, they'd driven even farther than _I_ had!!)  They said they'd spent the better part of the day at the Little River NWR, had dropped Jane Boren off at the motel, and then had come down to the Slough for a bit before going to dinner and calling it a day.  So we birded together for a while, nattering together companionably.... I got tickled when Sheila said they don't hear and recognize that many bird calls because they're usually talking; yep, that's the way we women are.

     We saw Greater AND Lesser Yellowlegs together (I always think it's nice when the birds do that so you can tell 'em apart), and some Long-billed Dowitchers.  The bill on one bird looked SO long, you could've wrapped it around the bird's head two times and still had some bill left!!  I spotted a bunch of White Pelicans in the distance; this species has eluded me all year (so far!) so I was glad to see them, at long last.  And a couple Snowy Egrets among the Greats.  A flock of Cattle Egrets flew over us.

     After a time, the girls decided they'd better get back to the motel so Jane wouldn't think they'd deserted her, so they left.  I headed back down Mudline for one last look.  I'd chosen well to arrive late in the day because great thundering hordes of shorebirds were now flying in to "roost" for the night---altho' without a scope, I couldn't tell you what they were.  Lots of "peeps," more Greater Yellowlegs ("tew-tew-tew") than you can shake a stick at, and many others that I don't know what they were, let alone that I was profile-birding into the sunny side of the road.  I pished up a male Common Yellowthroat beside the road and flushed a Phoebe near a bridge.  But the sun was goin' down; it was 7:30 p.m. and I still had a 4-hour drive back to Tulsa, so I headed for home.  Got 13 yearbirds for the day and enjoyed myself to the Nth degree.

     Happy birthday to me!!
The view from the foot of Mudline Road (at the intersection with Rt. 87).
THIS is where the fun starts!!
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