The Norman Transcript

January 19, 2014

Vian refuge hosting weekly eagle tours

By Linda Provost
The Associated Press

LAWTON — While the bald eagle beat out the turkey to be our national bird, there’s nothing that can beat seeing one out in the wild.

That’s what the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Vian is offering with its 2014 annual eagle watch tours. Tours are 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays through March 1.

Participate in one of the tours and witness eagles soaring through the air and hunting for food at a number of bald eagle nests.

Southern bald eagles typically lay eggs during December or January and incubate the eggs for approximately 35 days before they hatch. After the eggs hatch, the real work begins with both adults providing continual care for the young over the 11-to-12-week period until fledging. This is an exciting time during the eagle tours because the eagle nests come alive with action as the parents care for the growing eaglets.

“These tours are great for anybody who wants to enjoy themselves in the outdoors,” said Chad Ford, visitor service specialist.

You may be thinking “You want us to bird watch in this cold?!” The refuge has taken care of that.

“We have a nice, cozy, warm bus and we’ll drive to the site where we have known nests,” Ford said.

The naturalist from Tenkiller State Park, Leann Bunn, will be guest speaker during the tours.

“She is an excellent birder,” Ford said “She IDs every bird she sees, and to top it off she has a great wealth of information on eagles. You always learn something new with Leann.”

If you have any questions along the way, feel free to ask.

“We stop and look if anything interesting is going on out there,” Ford said. “One year we spotted a bobcat trying to hide a deer carcass and we sat and watched him. Then we noticed a turkey vulture waiting in the trees to steal the bobcat’s kill.

“It’s a new tour every Saturday and you never know what you are going to get.”

The Sandtown Woods Trail Area will be one of the main stops during the tour. It was once the site of a bald eagle release program undertaken by the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to restore eagle populations to the southeastern states. Today, the descendants of those Sandtown Bottom eagles commonly nest on the refuge and along the shores of nearby rivers and in other parts of the state.

While the organizers encourage all ages to participate, keep in mind that the tour is two hours in the bus.

“So if you know your little one might not handle it well, you might want to bring some quiet toys,” Ford said. “You never know when someone will connect with nature, so we don’t want to rule anyone out.”

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