Daily Archives: April 28, 2017

Day 7 – Oklahoma to Texas 

April 28

We left our campsite and stopped at Prairie Dog Town, an area set aside for Prairie Dogs in Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.

The prairie dogs were almost friendly. I’ve never seen them so habituated to humans.

Jon was eating a morning snack and he had one come up under the fence to almost beg for food.

Obviously, most people don’t resist. The one that came so close was female and may have been nursing pups. So I got a few really up close photos of them.

It was really wonderful to see pups and a large number of prairie dogs out and about. They did signal warnings a couple of times, but there were always a few left out.

When we drove in, we noticed a bison in the pasture behind the prairie dog area. It turns out there were actually two bison on two separate fields. One on them was close to the path along the side of the prairie dog area, so Jon and I took it hoping to get a better view of the bison.

We absolutely did. We stayed on the path for most of the time, but then we walked a little closer.

We completely understand that bison are not tame and are much bigger and faster than we are. We didn’t get too close.

I did really appreciate the new camera with a telephoto lens. I was able to get some really close up photos.

After this excitement, we headed west. We were hoping to make it through Texas today. The weather report called for a winter storm warning tonight. Not something you expect in Texas at the end of April. We finally decided to stop in Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge to camp.

Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge

Muleshoe is known for its bird life. Sand hill cranes stop here during their migration. We weren’t there at that time of year, but we did see a Ferruginous Hawk rise up from the road and fly off. It was impressive.

The Muleshoe campground was very nice. There were spaces for six spots. Some had picnic tables or fire rings. There were vault toilets, but no potable water.

There was already another vehicle at the camping area. It was a Sportsmobile. After getting parked so that we were optimally lined up with the expected storm, we went over to say hi.

It turns out that they had only recently taken possession of the van and this was a five week inaugural trip for it. They were from Oregon and had brought their very large black German Shepherd. We talked to them for a while and warned them about the oncoming storm. Jon suggested that they might want to realign their vehicle, but they weren’t interested in moving at this point.
Jon and I walked up to the main office to sign in. After a very short distance from our camper, the wind really started kicking up. And it was very cold. We signed in and took a brief look at the displays before heading back.

It had gotten really cold and the wind was incredible. I am very glad we had a four-seasons camper and so appreciative of Jon’s forethought about the direction of our camper.

Lemon-ginger chicken with jalapeno sugar snaps and French fried shallots with a nice white wine.

We didn’t leave the camper until morning.

I am thankful that our camper is well insulated with double paned windows, has heat, and a bathroom and kitchen inside. Those features are not always needed, but when they are, I am grateful.

Categories: Adventures, Spring/Summer 2017 | Leave a comment

Wild Turkeys at Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge 

From April 27 – 28

We saw a number of wild turkeys at Doris Campground in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.

Because a took a large number of photos of the turkeys, I decided to split them off into their own post.

All these photos are from our turkey sightings on April 27 & 28.

We first saw the wild turkeys in an uninhabited campground loop. There were five Tom turkeys and about three hen turkeys pretending to ignore the males. The exact number of females was hard to determine. The males stayed in one big group promenading in their best mating postures. The females were often in high grass making them hard to spot unless they raised their heads.

When we settled into our campsite, we saw the turkeys cross the road and come over to our campground loop. The females were in the lead grazing on whatever looked appealing. The males followed behind looking as dignified and pompous as possible.

A female turkey. Note her really long legs.

We watched them enter the camping area and seemed completely unafraid of humans.

Jon and I walked over to get a better view. I took a lot of photos.

Later in the day, once we had gotten back from our hike, two male turkeys in their normal attire came over to our campsite to forage. The males look so much smaller when they aren’t all poofed up.

And they look kind of like they are wearing a skirt when they are in the in between stages.

All of the turkeys in the US are in the same genus and species (Meleagris gallopavo). This includes the turkeys which have been domesticated. The white domesticated turkeys have been bred with such large breasts that they can no longer breed naturally. See Dirty Jobs if you want a hands on demonstration.
Wild turkeys almost became endangered in the 1960s due to excessive hunting. Restrictions were put in place and efforts to relocate turkeys were a huge success. There are now large numbers of wild turkeys.

Most turkeys in the US are derived from the Mexican Turkeys that the Spanish settlers brought back to Europe. They were then brought back to the new world with English settlers. Some of those turkeys escaped and became wild again. So between the native turkeys and escaped turkeys, there are a number of different subspecies of wild turkeys.

Wild Turkey Subspecies

For the most part, the easiest way to tell them apart is by the banding in their tails and their location.

On the eastern part of the US, the turkeys generally have a rufous colored band (a reddish-brown color) at the tips of their tails. Merriam’s wild turkeys are found in the western parts of the US (between New Mexico up to Wyoming and Oregon). Their distinguishing feature is the cream colored tip of their tail feathers.

The turkeys at this campground were the Rio Grande subspecies. The Rio Grande turkeys are found in the southern more central and western states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Utah. They have longer legs, a tan to cream tip their tails, and are more generally lighter brown with a copper and green iridescence to their feathers. They are also supposed to be gregarious, and these were certainly that.

Those features are hard to tell when they are in the shade.
Once we saw a few males in the sun, it was much more obvious.

The turkeys really made this place special. I hope you enjoy the photos.

The Wikipedia entry was very helpful.

Wikipedia Wild Turkey Entry

Categories: Adventures, Spring/Summer 2017 | Leave a comment

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