Volume 1 • Issue 5 • October 2007

Migration Stepping Stones

Shorebirds in the Mixed-Grass Prairie Region of Oklahoma

In the mixed-grass prairie region of Oklahoma, shorebirds rely on a variety of wetlands and other habitats such as river and lake edges, sewage lagoons and sheetwater in crop fields as stopover sites where the birds can replenish depleted energy and nutrient reserves.  These stopover sites are very critical to shorebirds because they act as “stepping stones” for the birds to continue and complete their migration.  Without these “stepping stones”, shorebird may not have successful reproduction and ultimately may not be able to survive their long migrations.  Since the early 1970’s, several populations of North American shorebird species have cumulatively declined by more than 70 percent.  These declines have resulted in a heightened awareness by state, federal, and international organizations to develop conservation strategies for these birds on both a regional scale and hemispheric scale. 

Conducting a bird survey around a typical wetland in the mixed-grass prairie region.
Recently, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation awarded a grant through the State Wildlife Grants program to the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at OSU.  This grant aims to obtain information on the distribution and ecological needs of shorebirds during their migration through the mixed-grass prairie region of Oklahoma.  It also will describe how different landscapes influence shorebird distribution, abundance, and habitat-use within this region.  The goal of this project is to provide conservation and management recommendations to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation personnel and other conservation organizations.

During spring and fall migration, shorebird surveys will be conducted at sites throughout Alfalfa, Blaine, Canadian, Garfield, Grant, Kingfisher, Logan, Major, Oklahoma, and Woods counties.  At each site, habitat types used by these birds will be recorded.  A Geographic Information System will then be used to determine how landscape and local variables affect shorebird distribution and abundances within this region.  This study was initiated in July of this year and will continue for two years.

The State Wildlife Grants Program provides federal cost-share money to every state and territory for cost-effective conservation aimed at preventing wildlife from becoming endangered. This program is administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and continues the long history of cooperation between the federal government and the states for managing and conserving wildlife species.  For more information, visit www.teaming.com.

Written by Craig Davis. Craig is an associate professor of Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State University.

Arcadia Conservation Education Area

Improvements Are On the Way

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has held a lease on 720 acres of Corp of Engineers property on the south side of Lake Arcadia for thirteen years. Several improvements have been added to the area including education pavilions, restrooms, parking and access improvements around the fishing pond. A 4,000 square foot research facility was also constructed two years ago.

The gulf fritillary is a common butterfly visitor at the Arcadia Conservation Education Area.

However, the best is yet to come. Recent action by the Wildlife Commission assures that the area will see significant improvements in the future. Plans for the coming year include construction of a multi-purpose 5,000-6,000 square foot education center. It will have an open floor plan and will be used for aquatic education, hunter education, archery in the schools training and conservation education training workshops, as well as meetings and conferences. Besides the multi-purpose building, additional improvements to the roads, construction of a parking lot and opening of the boat ramp for public use are planned. 

Current activities underway include vehicle parking sites for walk-in fishing access, cedar removal, signing the area, a nature trail and gazebo and the continued implementation of a prescribed fire plan to manage the habitat. The Oklahoma Master Naturalists are conducting bird, butterfly and small mammal inventories on the site.  For more information about these inventories, please visit their website:  http://www.okmasternaturalist.org/index.html.

Watch for additional information regarding the Arcadia Conservation Education Area as work progresses in the coming months.

Click here for more information about Arcadia Conservation Education Area.

Written by Colin Berg. Colin is an education supervisor in the Wildlife Department's Jenks office.

Improving Wildlife Habitat Around the Home

What to Plant and When

The fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs for your wildlife habitat. During the winter months, the root systems of the fall-planted specimens develop and become established. When spring arrives, this expanded root system can support and take advantage of the full surge of spring growth. 

Many landowners have recently come to recognize the importance of sand plum.  Sand plum is important for several species of birds as nesting sites, food, and year-round cover. It is also a butterfly host plant. It is very drought tolerant and produces beautiful flowers in the spring along with nice fruit in late summer that make tasty jellies and jams.  Sand plum seedlings are available from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry’s nursery.

Oaks are of major importance because they provide food for wildlife during the winter when other food is scarce. Several species are adapted to the eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma. Smaller acorns from the pin, water, post and willow oaks are eaten by ducks, titmice, woodpeckers and other bird species. The acorns also provide food for whitetail deer as well as great nesting and cover sources for birds and mammals. These are also butterfly host plants. See Landscaping for Wildlife by Jeremy D. Garrett for more great wildlife habitat ideas.

Written by Brett Cooper. Brett is a graduate student studying Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State University.

Our Mission:

The WILDLIFE DIVERSITY PROGRAM monitors and manages the state's wildlife and fish species that are not hunted or fished.