Shawnee News-Star Sunday June 10th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg Usually before it heats up to oven temperatures to bake the turkeys, the season's end of competitive bike races occurs. There are a few crazies that do love the warmth such as the Colorado Death Ride Tour in mid-June and the Hotter'N Hell bike races in […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday June 10th 2018

And Speaking of Turkeys

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Usually before it heats up to oven temperatures to bake the turkeys, the season's end of competitive bike races occurs. There are a few crazies that do love the warmth such as the Colorado Death Ride Tour in mid-June and the Hotter'N Hell bike races in Wichita Falls, TX at the end of August. Last weekend was the OKC Pro Am Classic featuring three fun-filled sweaty days of criterium racing. Criteriums are closed short circuit one kilometer races. Age and level of expertise will determine which race and length of time. Older Master riders may compete for 45 minutes, but the men's professional level can last 75 minutes. The pace is fast and sustained and the races are moved to a different course each day. Tents, food trucks, vendors and spectators line the road on both sides.

Treacherous yellow rail at Automobile Alley

On the third day the race went through Automobile Alley. Several scraps with the metal guard railing that led past the finish line occurred. As the bikes skidded, riders came off, pile-ups happened and a few wrecks required ambulance participation. The reason: the course was narrowed at that point because of installation of the new trolley tracks. The trolley will be up and running later this year. Next year the race in Automobile Alley is being moved.

This weekend, June 8-10, is the Tulsa Tough. It's a zoo. Races each day are also held at different places: Blue Dome on Friday, Saturday is Brady District and Sunday is the infamous Cry Baby Hill. Combined with heat and humidity, competition boils down to skill, endurance and sheer luck. These races are team oriented as one team tries to wear out the other team without sacrificing themselves first. Various strategic tactics are employed to draw out and exhaust other teams. With thousands-of-dollars in prize monies at stake, especially at the professional level, the competition is fierce.

If bike racing is your thing, the pace is usually fast. If you listen to 'Hearts of Space' on the radio, you are familiar with the sign off: 'Slow music for Fast Times. Safe Journey Space Fans wherever you are.' Take some time to slow down and be a fan of nature. Listen to birds sing, see butterflies float in the air, watch a cottontail rabbit hop, or spot a fish jumping out of the water. How can you make your yard more wildlife friendly? Plant native flowers, shrubs and trees. They offer so much more than the mowed monocultures of yard after yard. Boring and sterile. Michael Pollan quips: 'A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.' Become fiercely independent and don't do what you neighbors do. They just don't know any better. Make nature feel at home right in your yard.

All drama aside, the Wildlife Diversity Info Specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Jena Donnell, gave a dandy presentation at the McLoud Public Library in April. Jena put on her Power Point slides and we watched the birds fly by.

It has been proven that bird migration has shifted to follow the climate trend. Birds are traveling further north. We now have white-winged doves in OK that only had been in TX. The purple finch range has decreased over 90% in OK because the birds have moved nearly 500 miles further north. How far birds go depend on temperature, urban sprawl, habitat destruction and food availability.

Exotic Brown Hummingbird

Speaking of the purple finch, they are often confused with the house finch. Jena said to look at the purplish red color to see if it extends down into the flanks and is the tail forked? If so, this is the purple finch. To confirm a white crowned sparrow, the small bird wears a streaked bike helmet! Field sparrows have clean non-streaky breasts. What is black, white and red all over? Downy and Hairy woodpeckers. They are hard to distinguish unless side by side. The Hairy is much larger and has all white side feathers on the tail. The Hairy's bill has been referred to as a railroad spike. A cool visual Jena mentioned to tell the birds apart: mentally push the woodpecker bill into the bird's head. If a Hairy, the bill will protrude out the back. The dainty Downy woodpecker bill won't.

The Harris sparrows have gone, and in Oklahoma the cedar waxwings wait until the mulberries bloom and fruit before they head they should be gone. Scissor-tailed flycatchers will remain in our state through fall. These personable birds sally out for insects and fly back to exactly the same place they left from the tree.

Bird Hints: Don't take down the suet feeder in the summer. Instead, fill it with fruit. A slinky on a bird pole frustrates squirrels. I'll remember this. In a nest box the hole size must be less than 1 inches in diameter to discourage house sparrows. Blue bird nests must be periodically cleaned to prevent blowfly larvae and mite buildups.

Turtle looking at you

The OK Dept of Wildlife Conservation supports the OK Nest Box Trails Program. In this program all native cavity-nesting birds are monitored. This citizen science project started in 1985 and is entirely based on volunteer help. Do you know which birds prefer holes in trees and other secluded protected places? More than you think. The list includes: both turkey and black vultures, most owls and woodpeckers, purple martins, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, bluebirds and some ducks, such as the wood duck. By the way, the Wood Duck will be featured on the 2019-2020 duck stamp (aka the Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp.) Wood Ducks are strikingly beautiful. The males are brilliantly colored right down to their bills and laid-back crest. These ducks nearly became extinct by the late 19th century, but intense wildlife management, nest boxes, legal protection and other approaches have helped this bird recover to healthier numbers.

Stay in touch with the wildlife. Go to 'Wild Side' at Facebook updates are done by Jena.