White-tailed bucks photographed in Boiling Springs State Park from September 30th through November 30th, 2013.
Most, if not all of Cimarron County, Oklahoma is at 4000 feet or higher elevation and contains the highest point in the state at 4973 feet. The climate is semi-arid and averages only 17 inches of precipitation per year. The southern and eastern parts of the county are mostly flat short-grass prairie and farmland. However the northwestern portion is far from flat and contains some of the most interesting topography in Oklahoma, known as Black Mesa.
This is a typical scene in northwestern Cimarron County, a flat-topped mesa formed of black volcanic rock with a blooming tree cholla cactus in the foreground. This mesa could not be photographed in its entirety from this location, even with a wide-angle lens. This photo was created by digitally stitching three separate images into one.
Some of the many unusual rock formations found in the area.
This and the preceding images were made on June 12, 2012.
The tree cholla, which grows up to 6.5 feet tall, is the predominant species of cactus in the area. The buds shown above will open into beautiful purplish red flowers. This and the following photos were made on June 6-7, 2013.
This is a very rugged area and it would be easy to imagine it as the location for a western movie.
The pronghorn is often incorrectly called antelope. It is not a member of the antelope family and is in fact the only member of its family.
A pronghorn doe seen at sunrise on June 7, 2013. The doe has very short horns compared to the bucks more prominent ones. Horns are permanent and unlike antlers are not shed each year.
Pronghorns are supremely suited to life on the high plains. Their vision is so acute that it can detect movement four miles away. Being the fastest animal in the western hemisphere, it can easily outrun any predator and has been clocked at speed up to 70 mph. Running 45 mph is not unusual and it can cruise easily at 30 mph for 15 miles.
Mule deer does captured at sunrise among yucca plants.
Mule deer get their name from their ears, which are larger than those of the smaller white-tailed deer. They inhabit more open areas than the white-tail, which is seldom seen in areas as treeless as this.
Fog is an unusual sight in the Black Mesa as there is usually not sufficient humidity to produce it.
The black-tailed jack rabbit is a another speedy resident of the high plains.
Unlike the pronghorn, deer, and jack rabbit, the badger is a poor runner and depends on its strong claws to dig for its food and defend itself from any predators.
It usually digs for its food which consists mainly of ground squirrels, gophers, rats and mice. Few animals will attack the badger because with its powerful legs and sharp claws and teeth, it is more than a match for a lone dog or coyote. However if given a chance, it prefers to back into its burrow to escape. They are amazing excavators and it is said they can out-dig a man with a shovel.
The bright yellow flowers of the plains prickly pear are easy to spot, especially as they often grow in large clumps as shown below.
To view additional images from this area, please enter “Black Mesa” in the search box above and scroll down.
After many visits over a period of many years, I still find the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge an interesting and challenging place to photograph. The ever-changing weather and light conditions and the variety of wildlife and wildflowers means new opportunities and challenges for each visit.
The bison is the iconic animal of the refuge and is the primary reason this refuge was created.
By 1900, only two small herds totaling 550 wild bison remained in North America. In October, 1907 15 head of bison were transported by rail from the New York Zoological Park to the refuge.
The black-tailed prairie dog is another iconic animal of the the prairie and finds a welcome home on the refuge. It is generally not welcome on ranch land as the many burrows in established prairie dog towns can destroy pasture land and create hazards for livestock. A young animal is shown in this photo.
The collared lizard, commonly called mountain boomer, likes the rocky, boulder strewn areas of the refuge.
These lizards are often seen sunning themselves on large boulders. The males are easily identified because they are more colorful than females.
Many species of wildflowers are found on the refuge. These are the pale purple coneflower and the thread-leaf thelesperma.
This great egret is wading in a marshy area of Jed Johnson Lake, one of several man-made lakes on the refuge.
Seven bison can be seen in the distance as thunderheads are building to the east of the refuge at 4:35 PM on May 31, 2013. This is the day the 2.6 mile wide tornado hit El Reno, Oklahoma, about 85 miles northeast of the refuge.
At 5:49 a towering thunderhead is building.
This view is to the north 16 minutes later.
The preceding images were made on May 31, 2013 and the following photos were made on July 1, 2013.
Sunrise on a hazy morning. The haze was probably smoke from wildfires burning in states to the west.
Female Painted Bunting
Male Painted Bunting
The male painted bunting is perhaps the most colorful songbird in North America.
The scarlet gilia, also known as standing cypress is one of the more showy wildflowers on the refuge.
Some birds visit northwestern Oklahoma for only a short time in spring and fall and some raise their young here but fly south for the winter.
Ospreys visit lakes and rivers in Oklahoma as they travel from their winter homes in south Texas, Central and South America to their summer homes farther north where they nest.
An osprey flies over Ft. Supply Lake looking for fish on April 29th, 2013.
After spotting a fish, they dive into the water, talons first, and grab the fish.
The osprey’s feet are equipped with sharp projections which provide a secure grip on the fish which they always carry with the head facing forward.
The “fish hawk” as they are also called are always found near water, except when moving from place to place, because fish comprise their entire diet.
A female Wilson’s phalarope, a member of the sandpiper family, stops to feed at Ft. Supply Lake as it migrates northward to its breeding grounds.
Wilson’s phalarope photos made May 6th, 2013.
The American avocet is a much larger shorebird than the Wilson’s phalarope.
American avocets are summer residents of and nest in western Oklahoma, but as far as I know, don’t nest at Ft. Supply Lake where these photos were made.
They are easily identified by their long, upturned bill, striking black and white markings, and rust-colored neck and head. In winter, the adult bird’s rust colored areas turn gray.
They are very graceful birds and this one seems to be performing a ballet.
The beautiful little blue heron is a migrant or summer resident in much of Oklahoma. This one was photographed on May 13th, 2013 at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.
The little blue heron is much smaller than the more common great blue heron and is more blue.
The black-necked stilt is not often seen at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge where this one was photographed on May 13th, 2013.
The black-necked stilt is obviously named for its very long legs. Only the flamingo has longer legs in proportion to its body.
Male lesser prairie-chickens, members of the grouse family, perform a unique mating dance each spring. They gather in groups year after year on the same spots called leks, to attract hens by stomping their feet rapidly and inflating and deflating air sacs on the sides of their necks. This produces a sound called booming which can carry for a considerable distance on the open prairie and accounts for the alternate name, “booming ground” for the lek.
These images were made on April 30, 2013, shortly after sunrise.
The lesser prairie-chicken is slightly smaller than the greater prairie-chicken and has reddish air sacs instead of orange as on the greater.
The “horn” feathers are held erect and the air sacs are fully inflated.
Pairs of males often face each other with skirmishes sometimes resulting.
One of the opposing males will often jump up and descend on the other with claws extended.
The lesser prairie-chicken inhabits short-grass prairie areas of only five states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
A clump of sage-brush is used to get a better view of other males and be more visible to any hens in the area.
All of the males’ courtship displays were in vain this day as most, if not all of the hens in the area are already on their nests incubating eggs.
Lesser prairie-chicken populations have declined to precariously low numbers and they are now being considered for listing as threatened or endangered.
These photos were made on a lek near Glazier, in the Texas panhandle.
Many thanks go to Dick Wilberforce for making these images possible by providing access to this lek.
All images on this site are copyrighted © by Larry D. Brown and may not be used in any manner without permission.
White-tailed buck photos made 12-25-12.
There is no need to feel sorry for white-tailed deer in cold, snowy weather. The hollow hairs in their winter coats insulate so well that not enough heat escapes their bodies to melt snow falling on them.
White-tailed doe photos made 2-12-2013.
Yucca plants photographed 2-20-2013.
Buttonbush leaf and seed-pod and the preceding six photos made on 2-21-2013.
This and the following photos made on 2-22-2013.