The sun shines brightly on us as we drive into Oklahoma City to TR Ryan’s house. TR writes the blog, From the Faraway, Nearby. His blog is full of wonderful photography, exotic places, and of course, birds. I first met TR last year at the New River Birding Festival. then, last fall he came to AZ to visit me. We spent 3 days birding all over southeast Arizona before he continued his trip back home to Oklahoma. Now he is eager to show me the birds in his state.
TR Ryan and Gus 3-18-10 (Photo by Kathie)
We are greeted warmly and TR shows us the room where we will sleep. My it looks so comfy!
We eat a delicious lunch with TR, then gather our gear and head out the door to our first birding destination, Lake Hefner. TR has heard that a yellow-billed loon has been seen in this area and we are going to try to find it!
We record 30 species of birds here before heading to our next destination, Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge. I am basking in the sunny warmth of this day after having endured five days of gray and cold. Now as we had down the trail I am on the alert for one species in particular. I mentioned that the one bird I really wanted to see on this trip was the Red-headed woodpecker. I picked up that species in Alabama. Now I have a new target bird for Oklahoma. We hear a rustling in the underbrush and stop to see what we can see.
We wander down this wooded road in search of other birds, but it is surprisingly quiet. I am amazed by the red clay. I did not know Oklahoma was red. I think of the west when I see red rocks and red clay, but here I am on a dirt road in Oklahoma with my husband and my friend walking on red clay earth.
We count only 24 species of birds at this location but combined with a short drive down a nearby road to what is known as Rose Lake we pick up an additional 10 species.
We end the day in a small Oklahoma town named Okarche at Eichen’s Bar where they sell the best fried chicken in the state. In fact, it is so good that it is practically the only option on the menu! The place is packed and we have to wait our turn for a table. There are no assigned seats, so we hover around the dining areas hoping someone will finish and leave so we can grab their seat. Finally it is our turn and we are seated at a long table with strangers all around us. This is very different for Gus and I, stoic New Englanders who like our privacy and personal space. One one side a family sits with their kids, a young boy of about 7 peering past us at the electronic video games beyond. On the other side a group of adult sits. The women engages us in friendly conversation. This is all a new experience for us. Then, the “waiter” brings us sheets of what looks like wax paper for our dishes and a basket of white bread and some pickles. When the fried chicken arrives it comes in a basket and you grab it with your hands and eat. This is primitive eating. Nothing fancy here. We hesitate, then dig in. To my utter surprise, Gus actually likes it! He is usually opposed to eating any meat that comes attached to a bone, and he never eats with his fingers, but we have fun and leave there full and satisfied.
It is dark by the time we return to TR’s house. Gus falls asleep quickly while TR and I go over bird lists and pictures from the day. Then, its time for both of us to get to bed. We have another full day ahead of us tomorrow.