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.
Drive south from Altus on
US 283 for 11 miles to the tiny settlement of Elmer; then turn west on
the blacktop road and proceed for 17 miles to the town of Eldorado. The
bridge spanning the Salt Fork of the Red River 2 miles west of Elmer is
an equal distance north of the parent stream and the closest point to it
along this stretch of road. Several section-line roads lead south toward
the Red River's mature riparian woodlands. As one nears the river, the
sandier country is typified by sand-sage and yucca, and the scattered
tree growth is dominated by hackberry, American elm, soapberry, and an
occasional chittamwood. Dense thickets of sandplum and skunkbushes grow
near the ground, furnishing excellent cover for birds. There are
precipitous limestone bluffs in some places, dissected by narrow,
thickety canyons (be on the alert for rattlesnakes here). Along the
riverbank almost impenetrable strips of salt cedar proliferate.
Characteristic of the open
countryside are fields in various stages of cultivation interspersed
with mesquite "forests" that are carpeted with shortgrass pasture and
usually overgrown to prickly pear. The numerous small arroyos are lined
with stunted hackberries, skunkbushes and a few elms, as are the usual
gypsum "sinkholes" in the region. The principal streams that drain this
part of Jackson County are Turkey, Gypsum, and Sandy (Lebos) creeks.
In addition to typical
landbirds and aquatic species, the following may be found: Mississippi
Kites (S), Harris's Hawks (rare in winter), and Sandhill Cranes (great,
noisy, drifting flocks). After dark in summer Common Poorwills may
sometimes be located by their eyeshine as they rest in the roads.
Birds to expect include
Scaled Quail, Greater Roadrunners, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed
woodpeckers, Ash-throated Flycatchers (S), Chihuahuan Ravens (S), Tufted
(Black-crested) Titmice, Verdins (and nests), Curve-billed Thrashers,
Northern (Bullock's) Orioles (S), and assorted sparrows.
Here one is likely to see
Swainson's (S), Ferruginous (W), and Rough-legged hawks, Horned Larks,
Sprague's Pipits (W), Dickcissels (S), Cassin's (S), Clay-colored (M),
and Lark (S) sparrows, Lark Buntings (M,W), Savannah (W), and
Grasshopper (S) sparrows, McCown's Longspurs (W), Western Meadowlarks,
and Yellow-headed Blackbirds (M). Any of the numerous abandoned
buildings in the area may harbor Barn-Owls.
Sandy (Lebos) Creek
This creek flows
southeastward, less than two miles west and southwest of Eldorado, and
supports good stands of black willow, cottonwood and hackberry. One good
spot for birds is either side of the highway bridge one and one-half
miles south of the southwest corner of Eldorado at another crossing. In
the six or seven miles it takes Sandy Creek to meander southeastward
from Eldorado to the Red River it is bridged as many times; all these
sites are likely places in which to locate some of the area's special
birds. Watch for Scaled Quail, Greater Roadrunners, Black-chinned
Hummingbirds (S), Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed woodpeckers, Common
(Red-shafted) Flickers (W), Ash-throated Flycatchers (S), Tufted
(Black-crested) Titmice, Black-headed Grosbeaks (M), and Lesser
Goldfinches (S). All warblers seen should be carefully identified.