Pushmataha, Pittsburg and
From the 1986 edition of A Guide to Birding in
Oklahoma published by the Tulsa Audubon Society. This account was partially reviewed and updated in 2007.
The Clayton area is within
the Ouachita Mountains and is typical of the oak-shortleaf pine biotic
region that dominates southeastern Oklahoma. Located in a valley between
the Jackfork Mountains on the west, the Winding Stair Mountains on the
northeast, and the Kiamichi Mountains on the east, the area is a mix of
forest lands and open rangelands with cattle ranches.
There are three excellent
birding areas nearby that are open to the public: Sardis Reservoir,
Clayton Lake and Recreation Area, and the Oklahoma Department of
Wildlife Conservation Pushmataha Game Management Area. SH 2 follows the
Kiamichi River from the northeastern section west and south across
Pushmataha County to the Hugo Reservoir. Birders wishing to find birds
on this route should inquire locally.
Sardis Reservoir, a 14,360
acre flood control lake, is just north of Clayton. Stop at the Corps of
Engineers Project Office, about 6 miles north of Clayton on SH 2, if
additional maps of the lake are needed. Improved roads allow one to
travel around the lake and there are a number of public access areas. As
this is a new lake (impounded in fall of 1982), all bird records are
welcomed. Be sure to indicate the Pittsburg, Pushmataha, and Latimer
County lines as shown on the map. Especially needed are records of
herons, egrets, waterfowl, and shorebirds. Black-shouldered Kites nested
in 1982; usually seen flying over valley areas between mountain ridges,
they have not been seen since. Broad-winged and Red-shouldered hawks are
to be found in the woodlands. Indigo and Painted buntings abound during
May and June.
For the adventurer, follow
the graveled county road from the northeast ("The Narrows" on the map),
the northern Jackfork Creek arm of the lake. Note this left turn,
for the trip will continue on the north side of the lake from this
point. This is a "back-woods" country, wild and beautiful, not for fast
driving but a place to stop and savor its many aspects. An interesting
spot is the small creek left of the road past the Sardis store where a
Green-backed Heron may be found under the shade of overhanging trees in
summer. Summer Tanagers and Great Crested Flycatchers are in the taller
trees near the road. The Wild Turkey and Northern Bobwhite frequent
brushy areas near oak trees.
Drive through the village
of Counts, about 10 miles, and continue north for 3 or 4 miles to enter
a pine forest of the Jackfork Mountains. Here Brown-headed Nuthatches,
Rufous-crowned and Bachman's sparrows can sometimes be found. Unless the
Bachman's is singing (mid-April to early May) the species is almost
impossible to find. Learn the song which begins with a long "inhaled"
note rather like that of the White-throated Sparrow. Habitat for the
ground nester is open pinelands with second-growth scrub and underbrush.
The area along the Jackfork is all privately owned so one should work
from the road. Just north of Counts are signs to Gary Sherrer Wildlife
Management Area (previously named Bolen Hollow WMA) but the roads should
not be attempted in anything but a pick-up truck or a four-wheel drive
vehicle. Unless you have a county road map you should return over the
same route. After heavy rains parts of the road may become impassable
with little room to turn around. Forge ahead to the Sardis Baptist
Church and turn back.
On the northern side of
Sardis Lake the habitat is more open; birding opportunities are good
with additional species to be found. On returning to the lake road,
drive east along the "relocated" road which travels past scattered farms
and small public use areas. After about 2 miles drive into the Sardis
Cemetery on a narrow peninsula. Both Black and Turkey vultures may be
seen in the air. If the lane is dry, go as far as possible, checking
weedy edges for Lark and Field sparrows.
Along the county road
Loggerhead Shrikes may nest in small trees. Listen for Blue Grosbeaks in
tall shrubby growth away from the road. Dickcissels are common. Continue
north and east to Yanush, a small village on SH 2 where one may purchase
gas and groceries. Trees here may have nesting Northern and Orchard
Clayton Lake and
Clayton Lake and
Recreation Area will be found by driving south from Clayton on US 271.
The entrance is well marked on the east side of the highway. Campsites
and picnic tables will be found under the big pines. This is a popular
spot and may be full of noisy people. The open areas of the park are
usually productive for birding.