Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge- Oklahoma

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful place for viewing wildlife, hiking, camping and fishing.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a one-of-a-kind destination in southwest Oklahoma. Located near Cache and Lawton, the refuge spans over 59,000 majestic acres and is home to free range buffalo, Texas longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, elk and deer. Hikers and photographers will be astounded by the amount of incredible scenery offered within the refuge.


Recreation opportunities include mountain biking, rock climbing, rappelling, hiking, camping, picnic areas and fishing. The on-site Quanah Parker Nature and Visitor Center features exhibits on wildlife and habitats of the Wichita Mountains, as well as interactive and changing displays, artwork, videos, films and a bookstore. Periodically throughout the year, guests can schedule nature and wildlife tours that depart from the headquarters office either by foot, on bus or a combination of both.


Skilled hikers will enjoy the challenge of bouldering at Charons Garden Wilderness Area, which consists of just over two miles of rocky, rugged landscape, and there are a variety of trails for all experience levels. While visiting the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge, drive to the top of Mount Scott, which stands 2,464 feet above sea level. A parking lot is available at the top of the mountain, so you can get out and enjoy the view.


Additional attractions located within the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge include the Holy City of the Wichitas, Quanah Parker Lake and the Parallel Forest. The Parallel Forest, which consists of large cedars planted exactly six feet apart from one another, stretches as far as the eye can see. Located just over one mile north of the intersection of Cache Meers Road and Meers Road, the entrance to the Parallel Forest has a small parking lot near the edge of the forest. The trees were originally planted in the early 1900s, but before they were large enough to harvest the area became a refuge.

The Forty-Foot Hole is another interesting and beautiful geographic feature of the Wichita Mountains. Near Lost Lake, Cache Creek flows through this small gorge creating several waterfalls as it tumbles over rock formations. It is located at the northwest end of the Narrows Canyon and is a great spot for hiking in the summer months.

Overnight camping within the refuge is available at the Doris Campground, which offers 47 tent sites, 23 RV sites with electric hookups and 20 sites located a short walking distance away along a trail. Backcountry camping is also available within the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area.

All images are the intellectual property of Notable Nuances Photography by Susan Wilkinson 2016 © Protected – Images may not be used, distributed, reproduced or altered without obtaining express written permission.



Prairie Dog Town

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is one of the most social ground squirrels, living communally in large underground networks called “towns.” Named for the bark-like warning given when predators are nearby, prairie dogs have an interesting social life, are ecologically important to the prairie ecosystem, and have seen drastic declines since 1900.

Weighing in at two-and-a-half to three pounds, these gregarious rodents are primarily light brown with a black tipped tail. The tan coloration serves as a predator defense; blending in with the habitat allows prairie dogs to escape from hawks circling overhead and coyotes hunting from the ground. Like most rodents, prairie dogs are herbivores, feeding on grasses and annual forbs. This diet keeps the surrounding area clipped, encouraging desired forbs to grow while improving predator detection.

2016 © Notable Nuances Photography by Susan Wilkinson

Prairie dogs are unusually social for rodents, greeting each other by placing their forearms around each other or even touching noses or teeth. Although often incorrectly referred to as hugging, these greetings are in fact a way to identify colony members by smell. The smallest group within a town is called a coterie and consists of a breeding male, three to five females, and several juveniles. Breeding season is in late winter to early spring with the first litter of four to six pups being born in April. Pups emerge from the burrow six to seven weeks later. While females remain in the town of their birth, males disperse one to two years later to avoid breeding with close relatives.

Found in dry, upland shortgrass and mixed-grass prairies, these rodents have well developed forefeet used to dig and maintain their extensive burrows. Entrances to the burrows are typically volcano-shaped and provide ventilation to the system, serve as look out posts, and even help keep water out of the town. Prairie dog towns are surprisingly complicated. Dropping 10-15 feet from the surface of the main entrance, the primary tunnel can extend 50 feet or more in length. Several chambers can be found at the end of secondary tunnels that are used separately for caching food, nesting and even defecation.

Often referred to ecologically as a keystone species, the importance of prairie dogs in an ecosystem is disproportionate to their abundance. While a prairie dog town may be relatively small, it provides habitat, feeding grounds, and other important areas for several species of wildlife. One study identified 30 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles and seven different amphibians at prairie dog towns in the panhandle of Oklahoma. In a similar study, 73 species of birds were observed at the same towns. This means the presence or absence of prairie dog towns in Oklahoma could potentially affect 128 other species! While a portion of these species may not be fully dependent on the prairie dog to survive, others are directly linked to this rodent. Burrowing owls nest in pre-existing burrows, while the black-footed ferret relies on the prairie dog as a food source.

One of the largest threats to black-tailed prairie dogs is the sylvatic plague, a disease carried by fleas. Once the plague is introduced to a colony, it spreads quickly, and can cause a drastic decrease in the population within months. Other leading threats come in the form of habitat loss and various control programs. These three factors are responsible for the 90-98 percent population reduction seen in the last 100 years. Regrettably, many people are unaware of the consequences of prairie dog eradication. Completely removing these towns may cause an increase in woody brush and a decrease in overall wildlife diversity.

Wildlife managers have made several re-population attempts across the western portion of the state. Some areas, including the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge , even have viewing areas. When visiting these towns, it is important to remember these are wild animals. By feeding them human food, you can damage their digestive system and even make them more susceptible to predation. Enjoy watching from a safe distance!- Credit: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Dickcissel (Spiza americana)


The Dickcissel is a sparrow-like bird of the prairie grasslands of the United States that congregates in huge flocks in migration and on its tropical grassland wintering grounds. The breeding male is colored like a tiny meadowlark, with a black “V” on a yellow chest.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Streaked grayish head. Yellow stripe above eyes. Chin white. Thin black stripes at sides of throat. Black throat patch extending onto breast in a point. Chest bright yellow. Belly light gray. Back brown with black streaks. Tail and wings blackish. Chestnut shoulder patch.
Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: Black bib partly concealed by pale whitish to yellowish feather tips.

Female Description

Duller face and head pattern, with light yellow stripe over eyes. Throat whitish, with faint, thin dark stripes at sides. Breast dull yellow. Belly light gray. Thin dark streaks on flanks. Back brown with black streaks. Wings and tail blackish. Pale chestnut shoulder patch.

Immature Description

Immature similar to adult female, but duller. Yearling male with little black on chest.


2016 © Notable Nuances Photography by Susan Wilkinson
All Rights Reserved

Oklahoma’s State Bird

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Oklahoma designated the scissor-tailed flycatcher as the official state bird in 1951 and it is also featured on the Oklahoma quarter.

Protected by law, the scissor-tailed flycatcher is of great economic value. Its diet consists almost entirely of non-useful and harmful insect species such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles

Oklahoma is the center of the nesting range of the scissor-tailed flycatcher. In late summer, large flocks of up to 1,000 birds form prior to migration to their winter range in southern Mexico and Central America.


2016 © Notable Nuances Photography by Susan Wilkinson
All Rights Reserved

Splash of Color

Canon 6D, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/800 sec.

Canon 6D, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/800 sec.

Rainy days are a great time to experiment with shooting indoors. This is a pretty simple studio set-up… a wine glass mounted at a 45 degree angle, white backdrop, single studio light placed behind the backdrop and tap water to which I added a few drops of blue food coloring.

The image was shot with a Canon 6D (full frame body) and a Canon 100 mm L macro lens mounted to a tripod. The hardest part is getting a good pour and timing the shot to capture the action!

© 2015 – Notable Nuances Photography by Susan Wilkinson – All Rights Reserved


Canon 6D, ISO 100, f/8, 2.5 sec.

Canon 6D, ISO 100, f/8, 2.5 sec.

I have been wanting to photograph something other than birds, so I recently purchased some studio photography equipment. I set it up this week and experimented with the background and lighting. I chose a white rose for the subject and placed it at various angles with different colored backgrounds as well as varying the position of the lights. After taking several test shots, I reviewed them on the computer. I am pleased with the results and this is one of my favorites.

Camera:             Canon EOS 6D
Lens:                  EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
Focal Length:     100mm
Exposure:          2.5s
Aperture:            f/8
ISO:                   100

Today’s Guest Blogger: Susan Wilkinson — Rick Sammon Photography


Today’s Guest Blogger: Susan Wilkinson
January 19, 2015

Eastern Bluebird and spider_logoAs promised, here’s a link to my blog that I wrote for Rick Sammon. In it, I discuss Bird Photography along with some tips, techniques and share a few of my images. I hope you will check it out!  – Today’s Guest Blogger: Susan Wilkinson — Rick Sammon Photography.

Feel free to leave me or Rick a comment, feedback, or suggestions on his website or, if you prefer, leave a comment below.

As always, I appreciate your feedback, so drop me a line and let me know what you think.


Sunset at Kerr Dam


Canon 6D, ISO 100, f/16, 1/60 sec. at 24 mm.

Canon 6D, ISO 100, f/16, 1/60 sec. at 24 mm.

I made this image at the end of the day after photographing birds all day. I struggle with composing landscape images so I tried various compositions and different orientations. I like this one the best. The clouds are what really inspired me to make the image. I love the wispy look and the “fire breathing dragon” (that’s what I see) in the long cloud!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Canon 7D Mark II, ISO 6400, f/8, 1/1000 sec.

Canon 7D Mark II, ISO 6400, f/8, 1/1000 sec.

Finally got a shot of the male and his gorgeous colored crown! A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue.

Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eyering and a white bar on the wing. Alas, the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer, or if you’re really lucky like I was, you can see it in winter.

A Guest on Rick Sammon’s Blog

I’ve been asked by award-winning photographer Rick Sammon to be a guest on his blog! I will be writing about Bird Photography and sharing my experiences, tips and photography with his readers. Once it is published, I will post a link and would appreciate it if you would check it out, too!

Rick Sammon, a tireless, prolific and inspirational image-maker, called by some “The Godfather of Photography,” is one of the most active photographers on the planet – dividing his time between creating images, leading photo workshops, and making personal appearances. Rick’s enthusiasm for digital imaging is contagious. He is a man on a mission – a mission to make digital photography fun, creative, exciting and rewarding for others.

Scissor-tailed-Flycatcher-2_logoScissor-tailed Flycatcher (female) in a territorial, mating display.

If you like photography, I highly recommend checking out Rick Sammon Photography on Facebook, G+ and Twitter. If you are interested in learning about bird photography, consider taking his on-line seminar/course or reading his blog where I talk about the “Ethical Use of Bird Vocalization Apps”.  

Here’s a link:  “Master the Art of Bird Photography”http://ricksammon.com//blog2/2014/12/25/soon-come-master-the-art-and-craft-of-bird-photography-on-line-seminar

It’s a real honor to appear as a guest on his blog. A big “thanks” to Rick for giving me the opportunity to share my photography and I hope you enjoy his work as much as I do!

Bonaparte’s Gull

Canon 7D Mark II, ISO 200, f/8, 1/640 sec.

Canon 7D Mark II, ISO 200, f/8, 1/640 sec.

Bonaparte’s Gull in winter plumage. I have been working on capturing birds in flight and after a little practice with the Canon 7D Mark II and it’s incredible 10 f.p.s., it wasn’t as difficult to achieve my goal as I thought it would be.

This image was taken at Blue Mountain Lake, near Paris, Arkansas and is one more life bird I added to my list in 2014!

Heads or Tails?

Canon 7D Mark II, ISO 100, f/8, 1/1,000 sec.

Canon 7D Mark II, ISO 100, f/8, 1/1,000 sec.

Heads or Tails? Either way, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher wins… and so did I capturing this shot! Sadly, the poor grasshopper loses, regardless. This is one of my favorite birds and also one of my absolute favorite images I captured in 2014.

I added a new camera to my arsenal, the Canon 7D Mark II and a new bird lens, the Canon 400 mm, f/5.6 L prime. I’m hoping to get out and make more amazing shots like this one in 2015!

West Coast Lady

Canon 70D, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/640 sec.

Canon 70D, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/640 sec.

The West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella) is a close relation to the American Painted Lady and the Painted Lady.
Identification: Upperside is orange-brown with an orange bar at the leading edge of the forewing; hindwing with 3 or 4 blue submarginal spots. Underside with complex pattern; eyespots are obscured by other markings.
Adult Food: Flower nectar.
Habitat: Open places including weedy areas, gardens, roadsides, fields, foothills, chaparral, disturbed areas.

Butterfly Potential

Canon T2i, Sigma 150-500 mm lens. ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/1600 sec.

Canon T2i, Sigma 150-500 mm lens. ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/1600 sec.

Butterfly Potential

When I need inspiration, I simply look to Mother Nature. She never ceases to amaze me or let me down. The next time you see a butterfly, stop and take a moment to reflect upon their metamorphosis.

Although their life is short, they waste no time. Their life is measured in moments, not years. Don’t settle for being a caterpillar when you have butterfly potential. Change starts from within. Transform your inner beauty and then project it outward for the world to see.  Show the world your Butterfly Potential!

Black-eyed Susan

Canon 6D, Canon L 100 mm macro lens, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1000 sec.

Canon 6D, Canon L 100 mm macro lens, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1000 sec.

I’ve been experimenting with a technique called texture blending to add an artistic flair to a some of my images. I used Photoshop Elements 11 and Lightroom 5. To achieve the look, I combined various textures to a photo of a Black-eyed Susan using several different layers in PSE 11. After achieving the desired texture and over all look, I carefully removed the texture from certain areas by applying a layer mask. The areas were then brushed over to reveal the detail in the flower.

Winner of the Grand Prize and 2 Honorable Mentions

Bird Photography ‘Chasing 10,000′ Photo Contest Winners
I entered four images in the contest on the off-chance that one might actually be chosen. I can’t tell you how excited I am that three of my images won… Grand Prize and two Honorable Mention. I received a gift card for over $100.00. How awesome is that!!?? 🙂

“Grand Prize — Susan Wilkinson, Killdeer”

Susan Wilkinson not only won the contest, she could have won two of the weeks with her images, and her fourth image was chosen as an honorable mention. She hasn’t been photographing that long, but she’s one of the most talented photographers I’ve had the pleasure to meet and has a natural instinct for composition that I love. She was a moderator for Bird Photography for the early months as we were figuring out what the group could be and is now back spending her time behind the camera turning out images like this. Her images invariably blow me away, and I’m not surprised she won this contest.”
Chuq Von Rospach

Grand Prize ImageKilldeer

Carolina ChickadeeHonorable Mention – Carolina Chickadee

Bald Eagle Honorable Mention – Bald Eagle

If you would like to see the full article, here is the link: http://www.chuqui.com/2014/06/winners-g-bird-photography-chasing-10000-photo-contest/