Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 25 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg The Ruby-throated hummingbirds are on the move north. Male scouts have been seen as far north as Mount Pleasant TX on March 17th. Depending on the south winds, the tiny birds may well be in Oklahoma when this goes to publication. Journey north (https://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/) is one […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 25 2018

Rock foundation at the OK County Extension Complex

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The Ruby-throated hummingbirds are on the move north. Male scouts have been seen as far north as Mount Pleasant TX on March 17th. Depending on the south winds, the tiny birds may well be in Oklahoma when this goes to publication.

Journey north (https://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/) is one organization that tracks not only the migration of hummingbirds but also Monarchs, robins, whooping cranes, and natural events. People, just like you, spot a migrating bird or butterfly, go on-line to make a report, and the sighting is posted on the map with date and location. We all become citizen scientists as we follow our birds, butterflies and other migrating wildlife as they face a multitude of challenges on the way to their spring and fall homes. How many of us could pull this off with just the feathers or scales on our bodies and travel great distances carrying no food, water, maps or phone to call home?

Honey Locust in shopping Center

Oklahoma Master Naturalists (OMN) are a group of people interested in nature and the native wildlife in Oklahoma. The organization somewhat parallels that of the Oklahoma Master Gardeners. To become certified, trainee Master Naturalists attend workshops and perform volunteer service hours. The first OMN workshop of the year was held on St. Patrick's Day at the Oklahoma County OSU Extension Center recently constructed on the top of a small hill. Our classroom building was behind the main office structure. The complex is next to the health and fitness center. Behind is a sizeable wrought-iron fence that encloses raised bed gardens. Walking trails skirt soccer fields at the base of the hill. Remington Park is quite visible. At the front entrance are the remnants of a small cabin. Sections of red rock walls are held together with cracked mortar. A crumbling stone foundation still marks the perimeter of the small home built so long ago. What memories are held here?

The Urban Ecology Workshop addressed tree issues involving the interaction of nature and communities. Houses, businesses, shopping mall complexes and other human structures do indeed interface with plants and animals. The morning speaker, Mark Bays, is the Oklahoma Urban Forestry Coordinator. Although the USA is about 33% tree-covered, 28% of Oklahoma is actually forested with untold environmental value. Mark took our trainees back in time to over 200 million years ago when the earth consisted of water and a giant land mass. Through time and power point pictures we watched as it separated into the continents where we now live. Periods of icy cold further influenced development of plants and forests. Today the three main impacts come from geology, climate and human interaction.

Cross Timbers region is a belt of trees and grasses growing from northern TX through OK into KS. It is the boundary where the eastern and western forests meet. Twelve thousand years ago Cross Timbers was a white spruce forest. The climate was much colder. Over the years it turned warmer, the spruce slowly moved north and the oak and hickory woodlands became established. Twenty-six different oak species now make up Cross Timbers. This fire-adapted community hosts post oaks over 400 years old that are only 20 feet tall.

Urban foresters work with developers early in the process for good solutions to the mow and go; they help design natural settings and quiet places. A good on-line site to visit is i-Tree, a software program that integrates forestry with community through assessments, inventories, development of tree management plans through the use of forecasting tools. Balancing the 'Gray' and 'Green Infrastructures' in cities positively affects the rainfall, temperature, native habitats, and other impacts from community expansion in relation to the forests and wildlife. Tired of all the pharmaceutical ads on TV? Check this one out at www.nature-rx.org.

The afternoon presenter was Mark Howery, Oklahoma Wildlife Diversity Biologist. Did you know Oklahoma has 63 wildlife management areas? The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near Jet, Oklahoma has been designated as a critical habitat and super important stopover point for the federally endangered Whooping Crane as it migrates northward toward Canada in the spring. One of the largest of North American birds, the Whooper was taken to the brink of extinction in 1941; 21 in the wild and 2 captive cranes were the only living whooping cranes in the world. Whoopers were nearly obliterated by unregulated hunting and destruction of their homes. Protection of habitats have helped bring numbers to 431 this January at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast.

Trees and azaleas at the Norfolk, Virginia Airport

The two types of Bald eagle populations occur as either overwintering birds (600-1800 statewide depending on the winter) and the residents (144 eagle nests.) The diet of a bald eagle is 90% fish. The females are larger than the males as is usual in birds of prey. On an average the wingspan is 7 feet and weight 9-14 pounds.

Mark put into perspective how many wild animals Oklahoma has. Those with backbones, the native vertebrates, number 787 species. There are over 10,000 invertebrates. Of the vertebrates there are 99 species of mammals (6 protected, 16 of concern and 5 extinct), 385 bird species (5 protected, 12 of concern and 5 extinct), reptiles have 82 species (11 protected and 6 of concern), amphibians with 53 species (10 protected and 6 of concern), 170 species of fish (6 protected, 31 of concern), and the thousands of invertebrates (6 are protected and at least 8 are of concern) including 4,000 species of beetles, 53 species of freshwater mussels, over 120 species of butterflies, and 80 plus species of dragon and damselflies. Whew.

Birds have been the most studied. The Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds nest in OK during the summer. The Rufous Hummingbird migrates through during spring and fall. Ruby throats are found in the eastern of OK and the Black chin usually keep to the western quarter (they have been seen as far east as Chickasha.)

Hummers usually return to OK between the 10th-20th of April (the first are the male scouts) and leave in September (the males.) Put out your feeders in April, unless you see a bird buzzing about earlier, and plan to maintain them the next 6 months until late October. Sugar water solutions of one part sugar to 4 parts water can be made a bit stronger in the spring and fall when the hummers need extra energy. Nectar mixes are fine to use, but don't worry, the little birds also drink flower nectar and eat small insects and pollen. Just keep the feeders clean. When temps are cool, clean every week, but in the heat of the summer when it regularly soars over 85 degrees, please clean every 2 to 3 days. The dishwasher does a fine job of disinfecting and bathing.

Ready? Keep watch for the hummingbirds. Monarchs have already been spotted in Texarkana AR and Allen TX on March 19th.