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.
The following photographs were made in Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge on May 10, 2012.
The snowy egret is a small member of the heron family. It stands 20-27″ tall and has a wingspan of 38″.
They wade in shallow marshes and ponds seeking food.
Snowy egrets can be identified by their slender black bills, black legs with yellow feet and small size relative to other white egrets.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries the snowy egrets were almost hunted to extinction for their fine plumes used to decorate hats.
This photo includes the white-faced ibis to the left of the snowy egret and in the background along with the little blue heron on the right.
The great egret is one of the larger members of the heron family and stands 35-41″ tall and has a wingspan of about 55″.
Like the snowy egret, the great egret was also hunted for its plumes, but has now recovered.
This group includes great egrets, snowy egrets and white-faced ibises.
This photo clearly shows the size difference in the great and snowy egrets.
The great egret wades in shallow water on long legs and uses it’s long neck to quickly strike and capture its prey.
The great egret’s diet consists mainly of fish, frogs, snakes and crayfish, as shown here.
The white-faced ibis is 18-22″ in length and has a wingspan of 37″
The ibis uses it’s long down-turned bill to probe for insects or crayfish as it is doing here.