Directions to Good Birding locations in Payne County
and Surrounding Areas:
Lake McMurtry: Can be approached from the east side, from Hwy. 177 on north edge of Stillwater, turn west on McMurty road which will lead you directly into the park and to shoreline. Often clouds of Cedar Waxwings in the red cedars in winter, grasslands birds and hawks on east approach. Sightings of ducks, geese, and in fact swans reported in winter. This approach to the lake does not offer as much forested shoreline as does the west side of McMurtry. Approach the west side of the Lake/park: West of Stillwater on Hwy. 51 (6th street) to Redlands road. (Sign for McMurtry) Proceed north to T (Airport) and follow the signs, turn west on Airport, and entrance to the park is a couple of miles. Best birding is off in the woods near campsites on the water. Good warbler habitat in spring, blue gray gnatcatchers, wrens, phoebes, flycatchers, painted and indigo buntings, lots of woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, hummingbirds, look for belted kingfishers, egrets and herons along the water. Lots of snags, not much shoreline for wading birds. Have seen large flocks of wild turkeys in the grassland before entrance to park, and lots of hawks above cultivated field and pasture.
Lake Carl Blackwell: west of Stillwater on Hwy. 51 (6th Street) to 51 C, which is clearly marked for Lake Carl Blackwell. North on 51 C. The first bridge you come to has a parking area on the right, east, and if you park there, you can walk south and east on paths through the cedar and pines, good warbler habitat in spring, and grasslands birds to the east. If you proceed north on 51 C, will come to a right turn just before the Y, which takes you back south along the edge of the lake. In February we have seen very large flocks of wild turkeys, wintering ducks on this bay, and all the way at the end, past the RVs, have seen pileated woodpeckers in gully trees several times. Red winged blackbirds nest in backwater estuary, as did pair of Canada geese spring of 2001.
From the Y, if you proceed around the east side of the pond, note the backwater to your right, wood ducks observed in that little area the last two springs. Northern orioles in poplar on the north side of this estuary, little green herons and great blue herons on pond as well as Canada geese, killdeer, swallows, and flycatchers. Proceed around pond to east along the shoreline, which is the swimming area. Bob white quail often in parking lots on the west side, eastern and western kingbirds, both northern and orchard orioles, phoebes, flycatchers, Carolina wrens, crows and grackles, flycatchers, swallows, hummingbirds, cardinals, jays, and in spring and fall a variety of wading shorebirds, and in January to March, have seen many migrating and wintering duck species.
Boomer Lake, City of Stillwater, at intersection of north Washington (Boomer) and Lakeview on the west or Lakeview and Husband on the east, or Airport Road follows the north end of Boomer from Washington to Husband. Migrating ducks and geese in the fall, many Canada geese nest in the area and on the island in summer. Will see cormorants, great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, an occasional little blue heron and little green heron, various species of ducks. At the north end, there’s a bridge on Airport Road over a little estuary (entering stream) which extends north into a heavily wooded area. Chances are good of seeing belted kingfishers, little green herons, wooducks, even a bobcat, in that area. There are Barn swallows under the bridge and a lot of woodpeckers in the timber. Below the dam at Boomer Lake, a concrete path follows the creek through woods to Franklin St. just north of the highschool.
Sanborn Lake (Isaac Walton League): From the National Guard Armory on Airport, take gravel road south between the Armory and the ball fields. Parking lot at lake, and it’s 3/4th of a mile around the path over the earthen dam on the south, established path. Large timber around the lake and cedar grasslands on periphery. Below the dam is a seasonal wetland with interesting plants. Can see migrating waterfowl, people reported a bald eagle last winter, lots of warblers in spring. Both northern and orchard orioles, summer and scarlet tanagers occasionally, interesting sparrows along field edges in spring and fall, catbirds, mockingbirds, flycatchers, wrens, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, crows, grackles and hawks. Herons and egrets along shallows and in snags.
Sooner Lake (Noble and Pawnee Counties): Travel north from Stillwater on 177 past Hwy 64, mile past the Cimarron Turnpike entrance, to the huge OG and E power plant, that uses Sooner lake. This is a large lake and probably has the most interesting history of wintering and migrating waterfowl, has a nesting pair of resident bald eagles, many shorebird sightings, swifts, nighthawks, swallows, crows, grackles, bluebirds along fencelines, scissortails and other flycatchers, bobwhite quail. John Couch knows about prairie chickens and other upland birds in the area; reports of burrowing owls to the northeast of the lake.
Teal Ridge, a developing urban wetland at 19th and Walnut, ‘/z mile east of Western and south to Teal Ridge Housing Development. This area is being managed for migrating water fowl, is very low on water at the moment, but has a dyke you can walk around and a concrete sidewalk through the middle of it. Eventually will have a classroom on site, a blind, and informative signs and information about the visitors. Large shoreline area visited by many wading birds, many species of ducks there intermittently or as winter residents, with fall arrivals beginning in October. Pair of northern harriers there all last winter, and a family of Mississippi kites through the summer, a family of little green herons, and year round visits from great blue herons, great egrets and snowy egrets, occasionally little blue herons, a belted kingfisher, white faced ibis for several days in the spring, always Canada geese and killdeer, clouds of red winged blackbirds in fall, migrating sparrows in surrounding grasslands, nighthawks and swifts at sunset, and a very interesting array of frogs, turtles and other critters. Wonderful butterflies in the smartweed and sunflowers in August. May of the “day” birds actually live on Stillwater Creek just to the north, and the herons, egrets kingfishers and wood ducks disappear to the creek if disturbed. Think the little green heron family also nested on the creek, as well as the kites. That’s posted private property.
Cushing Lake: just off Hwy. 33 between Perkins and Cushing on the north side of 33. Inconspicuous gravel road leads to the lake, with some picnic tables. Other gravel road access from the north side, you just sort of have to try roads to find one that approaches the lake. Lot of migrating waterfowl, and surrounded by brush and cedar/hardwood woods Fishing boats are allowed, and best way to see this might be by canoe. It’s not really mature forest, and not the best warbler habitat, but there’s a lot of edge for buntings, bobwhite, many other songbirds in the spring in this area.
Cushing Water Treatment ponds: Just beyond the east edge of Cushing on Hwy 33, turn south on Harmony Road, pass the Harmony, elementary school, and take first section line south of the school, E-W 73 to your left, east, and the treatment plant is on your right, with conspicuous signs. It’s open to the public during the week, 8AM to 4PM, and involves three ponds, good size open water area which has a reputation for welcoming lots of migrating waterfowl. Since there are shell casings on the shoreline, and the staff says people duck hunt, be careful about sneaking up on the birds during duck season. Surrounding grasslands and brush are habitat for many songbirds, no mature forest in immediate vicinity. This is a very well maintained facility, no parking problem. It is fenced, with no access on weekends.
Stillwater Creek has many wooded areas with public access. Couch Park East of Perkins Road on 12th offers a long trail beside the creek and mature trees, good warbler habitat and songbirds all summer. Has picnic and restroom facilities, no parking problem. The north side of
Babcock Park (ball fields at 19th and Western) allows easy access to a wooded area along the creek, songbirds all summer, good warbler habitat in spring migrations, excellent woodpecker and owl habitat. The creek winds northwest across Hwy 51, and can be encountered again at the intersection of McElroy and Range Road, where it crosses under two bridges and is surrounded by some mature forest as well as cultivated fields. Lots of woodpeckers, warblers, phoebes, flycatchers, wrens, buntings, great blue heron and occasional wading birds in spring. Have seen a pileated there twice, and last spring, an albino red breasted woodpecker three times in one week, not since. South of Stillwater, Stillwater Creek crosses private property and you’d need permission to explore. As Stillwater creek proceeds to the northwest from Range and McElroy, it crosses farmland where there are huge trees occasionally near the creek, many hawks and hawk nests in this area adjacent to fields.
Cimarron River: The vast sand flats on the Cimarron invite huge flocks of migrating white pelicans and sand hill cranes in the fall. Watch for pelicans from 10-15 through November. Many wading shorebirds frequent the sand flats, and you’ll see a zillion sandpipers from time to time, herons, egrets, waterfowl, cormorants, and wooducks in the wooded stream tributaries. There are many places to access the river, but one excellent location is: East of Stillwater on Hwy. 51 to 108 south, toward Ripley. When you get to the Cimarron River bridge, turn right off 1138 down to the river, and left under the bridge. This gravel road follows the river both east and west, but if you turn east, it will eventually turn north again through some very old timber, Ghost Hollow Road, excellent spring warbler habitat, and watch for wood ducks on the creek paralleling the road. Emerges on Mehan Road, turn left to 108.
Yellow Brick Road pond on Western, just south of Sangre Ridge School, is reportedly an excellent place to watch for migrating and wintering waterfowl. There’s a path through the woods from the school to the lake which is songbird territory. This is a private lake and private, posted, property, but there is a small parking area at the west end of the bridge over lake on Yellow Brick Road, and no one seems to object to birders if you park appropriately.
OSU pond at Sangre Bend and McElroy. Small pond with some forested areas nearby, have seen great horned owls and pileated woodpeckers several times in this small area. Staff at the OSU research station just to the north does not object to people climbing through the fence and birding, be aware of cattle in the area.
OSU Campus has several habitats with public access, grasslands, edges, with an interesting variety of native and ornamental trees around the main campus and particularly around the Theta pond on University just east of Monroe.
Airport Area. Many grass seed feeders and insect feeding birds can be found on the grasslands and fence rows along western through the airport. This is just west of Sanborn Lake many hawks, reports of a bald eagle in winter of 2000, lots of flycatchers, kestrels, meadowlarks and horned larks, buntings. Several years ago shrikes were common, haven’t observed them in awhile.