This summer, we decided to try something new with the dog: escape the 4th of July fireworks. You see, Eli has a potent fear of fireworks, gunshots, and fire alarms. Why, we’re not entirely sure, and attempting to behaviorally desensitize him has only made it worse. Our plan was simple: Drive down to the eastern corner of the state, find a wildlife refuge or state park that wasn’t having a big to-do, and commence exploring any trails with the pup.
While we didn’t completely escape all the fireworks, we did find a lot of cool things. Like the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. Even though it’s right off I-40, it isn’t a heavily-trafficked area, though it is well-known as a birding hotspot in the state, with over 250 species spotted multiple times in the area.
From the moment we drove up on a cool summer morning, we started finding birds, like these northern rough-winged swallows:
And this eastern phoebe:
We were entirely frustrated, however, for the first several yards of our walk along the nature trail. Every step we took, we could hear rustling in the brush, much like in Puerto Rico, but the culprits jumped and scurried away before we could get an identifying photo. Finally, we were able to sneak up on one and snap a shot of it:
Yep, there were hundreds of plains leopard frogs in the forest! How do we know they were plains leopard frogs? They have a dark spot on their snout, a light spot on their tympanum, which differentiates them from other leopard frogs in the area.
This continued along the entire trail and all the way to the lake, where the leopard frogs were replaced by cricket frogs. We were extremely glad that we brought the dog along while we were walking the shoreline. Of course, in Oklahoma, you always keep an eye out for snakes, but the dog takes this to the next level. We were walking back to the car from a side trail when he suddenly jumped, cartwheeled, and did a 180 degree turn before going on point right at my feet. I looked down only to realize that both of us had almost stepped on this guy hiding in the grass not 6 inches away from my foot:
Talk about a close call. This water moccasin was so fat from eating frogs and fish that he barely moved, though I’m sure he would have had I stepped on him. Fun fact: the scientific name of this snake, Agkistrodon piscivorus, means ‘hooked-tooth fish eater.’
We also had the chance to talk to quite a few fishermen in the area, most of whom were having no luck after mid-morning. Someone else who was having no luck was this roadrunner:
Even though we still didn’t find any black vultures (my ultimate reasoning on driving south of I40), we still had a successful day of discovery. Birds we saw: Northern rough-winged swallow, cardinal, yellow-billed cuckoo, indigo bunting, painted bunting, blue grosbeak, double-crested cormorant, belted kingfisher, scissor-tailed flycatcher, greater roadrunner, dickcissel, red-bellied woodpecker, tufted titmouse, mourning dove, white-winged dove, red-winged blackbird, great blue heron, great egret, bewick’s wren, eastern phoebe, northern cardinal, blue jay, brown-headed cowbird, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, hummingbird sp., others I’m probably not remembering…
And because we all know pictures are more fun than words, here are some extras for you: