Discover Oklahoma: Winter offers chance to view eagles, other wildlife
Who knows what an Oklahoma winter will be like from year to year? So far, we have had a few rather brutally cold air sweeping down the plains, and a few days that felt more like spring.
These past few years, I have written about outdoor winter activities, my favorite of which is fly-fishing. Attending an eagle watch is also something I’ve written about a few times over the years. If you have never gone to an eagle watch, you are missing out on something quite special. And once you go, chances are you will go again.
Oklahoma’s lakes and rivers, mostly open and free of ice all winter long, are irresistible magnets for eagles, both bald and golden. I am not sure how to define a typical Oklahoma winter anymore, but on the average from 800 to 1,000 eagles arrive in our state during that time. Throughout January and February every year, guided eagle watches are scheduled, but there are several opportunities to seek out and see these magnificent birds on your own time, too.
Eagle watches are planned for Saturday, Feb. 22 and March 7 at Lake Thunderbird State Park. Each watch is limited to 15 vehicles, so reservations are required. Eagle watches also are planned at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, and Tenkiller State Park has scheduled an eagle tour and loon watch. Those dates are Saturday, Feb. 15, Feb. 22 and March 7. Southern bald eagles also may be seen at these locations in their natural habitat.
Other prime eagle viewing locations include Kaw Lake in northern Oklahoma; Black Mesa State Park & Nature Preserve, in the northwest Oklahoma Panhandle; Arcadia Lake in central Oklahoma; Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in the northwest part of the state; Quartz Mountain Nature Park and Keystone Lake & Keystone State Park. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area is another beautiful location for winter eagle watching, and it recently held its annual “Bald Eagle Watch.”
Oklahoma has lots of other watchable wildlife and several prime locations in which you can observe them throughout the year. For example, you can see bison roam free at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton. The refuge covers close to 60,000 acres, on which you also can see prairie dogs, deer, elk and Texas longhorn cattle.
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve close to Pawhuska, the largest protected of its kind in the world, is home to different kinds of plants and animals. Besides binoculars, be sure to bring your camera to capture photos of armadillos, woodchucks, badgers, coyotes and white-tailed deer. The preserve also has one of the largest herds of bison in the country.
For a comprehensive listing of eagle watches and locations for watchable wildlife, go to travelok.com.