Bonded in 1927 as a
nature park, the 2,800-acre park has long been noted for its bird life.
Large areas of the park are in a natural state, with woods, streams,
lakes, and some grassy fields. Park improvements have somewhat
diminished the natural character of some sections, but extensive areas
remain to attract the birder. Many of the better locations for finding
birds are within the Mary K. Oxley Nature Center.
The main entrance to
Mohawk Park is 2.5 miles east of US 75 on 36 St. N (Port Road). There is
a $1.00 per car entrance fee on weekends and holidays from April through
November after 9:00 a.m. This fee is waived for
Friends of the Nature Center or for Tulsa Zoo Friends. On weekdays
and winter weekends there is no fee.
In the western edge of
Mohawk Park, Lake Yahola is the traditional starting point for birders
going to the park or to other areas in northern Tulsa County. The lake
is on Mohawk Boulevard 0.5 mile east of Harvard or 0.5 mile west of
Winston. To reach Yahola from I 244, travel 3.5 miles north on US 75 and
exit on 36 St. N. Turn left and proceed east to the traffic light on
Harvard, then left again to Mohawk Boulevard. Follow the Boulevard right
to the parking lot south of the lake, opposite the water treatment
plant. To reach Yahola from the Nature Center, bear right at the first
intersection; follow the road as it curves left, and turn right at the
stop sign. The latter route is not open at all times.
In early mornings and
at dusk thousands of Chimney Swifts are seen entering and leaving the
tall smoke stack from April through October. Walk up the steps from the
parking lot to the Monument and scan the lake. During winter and in
migration the lake may have every possible Oklahoma duck; three goose
species and rarely Ross's Goose; Horned, Eared, and Western grebes;
White Pelican and Double-crested Cormorant (abundant). Common Loons
sometimes winter, and White-winged and Surf scoters have been recorded
irregularly from October through February. The Long-tailed Duck has been
recorded from December through mid-March in severe winters with ice on
the lake, at which times Bald Eagles may also stop in trees.
Laughing, and Thayer's gulls, although rare, have sparked the interest
in finding the unusual in October. Rafts of Franklin's Gulls join
Ring-billed and Herring gulls in October and Bonaparte's may stay
through November. Early fall is the season to find Forster's, Caspian,
and Black terns on the lake. If the water level is down, exposing gravel
bars, look for Water Pipits, Ruddy Turnstones, Snowy, Piping, and
Semipalmated plovers. The lake edge may have Willets and Avocets. Early
morning, before fishermen arrive, and late afternoon are best times for
Trees at the Monument
may have warblers in May; trees and brush on the left, additional
passerines. Other points where one may view the lake include the smaller
parking lot to the east and the road leading to the North Woods. After
leaving the lake, check the swampy area 0.3 mile east, stopping well off
the road. Scanning from the road edge occasionally produces Black Duck
and Osprey. Both Pileated and Red-headed woodpeckers have nested in the
snags. Listen for Bell's Vireo in brushy edges in summer.
GPS coordinates of the Lake Yahola
Monument are N 36 degrees 12.940', W 095 52.085, 628 feet elevation.
To reach the parking
area for the North Woods Unit of the Nature Center, continue east to the
stop sign (Winston). Turn left and proceed north to the graveled road,
following the road around the lake to the end.
From the Oxley Nature
Center in the eastern section of the park, continue west to Lake Yahola
and turn into the graveled road on the right after crossing the bridge,
or from the south, go north on Winston from 36 St. N. [NOTE: On weekends
and holidays, April through November, the road north of the North Woods
entrance road is closed, necessitating the use of the main Park
entrance, 0.3 mile east of Sheridan on Port Road (36 St. N).]
The North Woods is a
mature oak-hickory woods with excellent birding the year round. In
spring it holds scores of migrating warblers and other species. Several
ponds provide habitat for water birds including both Yellow-crowned and
Black-crowned Night-Herons, and there have been two reports of Anhinga.
Several trails are available. North Woods Trail, beginning at the
parking lot, leads north between two ponds. This is fine warbler habitat
in early to mid-May, producing the rare Connecticut and Hooded
warblers; four Empidonax flycatchers sing on location, and in winter
Ruby-crowned Kinglets forage with pairs of Golden-crowned. The uncommon
Yellow-throated Vireo arrives in April and has nested.
The trail leads to the
north shore of Mallard Lake, continuing left onto Beaver Lodge Trail or
right to connect with the North Woods Loop. Both are good birding areas.
Numbers of Woodcock have been seen along the south shore of Mallard Lake
in September. The use of a scope is advised. The swampy areas or pond
sides with standing timber are usually full of nesting Prothonotary
Warblers. Northern Parula and Kentucky warblers nest as do White-eyed
and Red-eyed vireos. In spring be alert for the song of the
Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Check dead stubs in tree tops both spring and
fall for Olive-sided Flycatchers. Barred Owl and Pileated Woodpecker are
permanent residents. In winter, sparrows and juncos are abundant in
grassy clearings, and Winter Wren, Evening Grosbeak and Purple Finch
The Sierra Club Trail
is found by walking east from the parking lot along the small dike east
of Yahola. Look over ponds to the right and wet areas to the left. In
mid-May the Philadelphia Vireo and the Canada Warbler (uncommon) have
come to buttonbush and small trees that fringe the pond. In about 200
yards the trail heads down steps to the left. In a newly opened area
which has not been birded extensively, the trail could become one of the
better birding spots. On returning to the road, look below the dike for
Rufous-sided Towhee and Fox Sparrow in winter. In spring the trees,
brush, and edges of both pond and road attract Black-and-white,
Swainson's, Magnolia, Blackthroated Green, and Palm warblers, plus a
dozen more common warbler species. In winter Savannah Sparrow and
occasionally a Le Conte's Sparrow are found in grass along the big dike.
Search for Sedge Wrens here in March and April.
K. Oxley Nature Center/
Oxley-Yetter Interpretive Building
The Mary K. Oxley
Nature Center is the birding hub of Mohawk Park. To reach the Nature
Center, pass the toll booth and take every left turn to a large sign
indicating "Mary K. Oxley Nature Center". Turn right at the sign and
follow the road east to the parking lot by the Interpretive Building.
GPS coordinates of the Oxley nature
Parking lot. N. 36 degrees 13.418' W. 095 54.235' 573 Elevation.
Located in the
northeastern section of the park, the Center embraces a wooded lake
which holds two sizeable islands, a marsh with boardwalk, wet prairie,
dry grass fields, and hardwood groves with scattered cedar, small
streams often dammed by beaver, and Bird Creek which batters its way
across the county to the Kerr-McClelland Waterway.
area immediately surrounding the parking lot is a good place to begin
birding. The ponds, fields, and groves of trees offer diverse
communities to explore. Three trails are accessible from this
location, as is the grassy clearing known as the Flowline. Summer birds
to find here are Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, orioles, six woodpecker species,
Tyrant flycatchers including Scissor-tailed, herons, egrets, Indigo
Buntings, Field Sparrows, hummingbirds, and a few warblers. The wooded
area behind the building has had nesting Kentucky Warblers, the Acadian
Flycatcher which nests, and perhaps the Willow Flycatcher. Appropriate
areas should be checked for Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler,
and Dickcissel. Owls are sometimes found in the woods or in cedar trees
to the west. Woodcock are possible nearby. The pond near the building is
a good place for birds of the season and has even attracted a
White-faced Ibis. Winter sparrows coming to feeders are Whitethroated,
Lincoln's, American Tree, Harris's, Goldfinch and Pine Siskin. In the
meadow below the boardwalk are Fox and Song sparrows. Eastern Phoebe
builds its nest under the boardwalk.
Your visit should include hiking at
least one of the trails that allow access to the forests, fields, and
wetlands of the Nature Center. The trails may be hiked seven days a
week, year-round. The trails are closed to the public during Mohawk
Park's curfew hours: 9:00 pm. to 5:00 a.m. You may park outside the
gates from 6:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. to walk the trails even when the gates
trail system is comprised of many individual loops and stretches of
trail linked together. The main part of the trail system centers around
the Interpretive Building.
Click here for a trail map. A second set of trails, the North Woods
Unit, may be found northwest of Mohawk Park's Golf Course and northeast
of Lake Yahola.
Click here for a North Woods trail map
There are nearly nine miles of trails.
Most of them are flat and fairly smooth. Wheelchairs and strollers may
be taken down many of the trails unless rain has made the dirt or grass
surfaces too soft or muddy. The trails are not set up for horses or
bicycles or vehicles of any kind. Following is a brief description of
some of the trails.
The Red Fox Trail (0.3 mile) is a wheelchair accessible trail.
The Green Dragon Trail (0.5 mile) wanders through the deep woods
and along Coal Creek.
The Blue Heron Trail (0.3 mile) has bird blinds overlooking Lake
The Prairie Trail (0.4 mile) winds among the various prairie
plants and wildlife trails of the old field area.
Wildlife Study Area
This peninsula is
accessible by foot from the Nature Center parking lot. Walk along the
entrance road to a pass-through in the wood fence on the right and
follow the path across the old road to pick up the path again. Listen
for Yellow-breasted Chat in low trees and scrub east of the lane and
follow the thin warbling song of the Painted Bunting which has nested
nearby. The path parallels the creek for a way, with grass and weedy
habitat on the right. Excellent numbers of winter sparrows, including
Harris's, Lincoln's and Song are found here.
Near the treeline
ahead, watch for a path to the left which enters the woods. Be alert for
Barred Owl and Pileated Woodpecker which are fairly regular here. In
winter watch for Brown Creeper, White-breasted Nuthatch, and
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Where trail and creek curve to the right,
there are frequently Wood Ducks, and in winter hundreds of waterfowl
rest along the bend. In spring listen overhead for Yellow-throated
Warbler and under the canopy for Northern Parula. Both kinglets are here
in winter and Acadian Flycatchers in summer. The trail continues through
the woods and eventually emerges on the original path which turns right
toward the Nature Center. Other birds frequenting the area include
Indigo Bunting, Summer Tanager, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, several buteo
species and occasional warblers. Both Prairie and Peregrine falcons have
been seen overhead.
Blackbird Marsh and
Lake Sherry is a short walk from the center via a bridge across Coal
Creek. To drive from the Center, take every left turn through the park
to the stone shelter on the left (1.9). Park in the circle drive and
follow the creek downstream to the right. Good birding is found on this
walk at any season. White-crowned Sparrows (uncommon) with many
immatures are frequently found in fall, with Fox and Harris's sparrows,
Rufous-sided Towhees, and Brown Thrashers. Cross the cable barrier and
immediately check the marsh on the right. Scopes are needed and in
summer may reveal Green-backed Herons, many egrets of several species,
and with luck, American and Least bitterns. After a preliminary survey,
continue to the start of the boardwalk.
three acre marsh is man-made but has attracted a wide variety of birds,
including several rarities. In spring be alert for warblers, especially
Common Yellowthroat. Look and listen for Sedge and Marsh wrens, Sora,
Virginia Rail, or even Common Moorhen. From mid-summer when migration
begins, a parade of shorebirds will continue into October if the water
level is down. In winter migrating waterfowl are sometimes abundant, and
the edges are excellent for various finches and sparrows, including
Swamp Sparrow. One recent year an Ani species was found here.
continues through the marsh and gives
good access to hidden areas. The end of the walk is at the south end of
Lake Sherry near the new observation tower. The lake should be scanned
for waterfowl; in dry summers exposed mud flats may host many waders.
The tower gives excellent views of both the lake and the marsh, a place
to pause awhile before returning to the car.
There are several ways
to reach this 70-acre lake. Walk three-fourths mile from the Nature Center,
or drive through the park to the east end of the lake, turning left at
every opportunity for approximately 3.5 miles where the road ends. This
is a vantage point to scope the lake if waterfowl are present. Many ducks come to
the lake in early winter; Hooded Mergansers occur regularly. Check
(spring) and gulls (winter) for the occasional rarity. Franklin's and
Bonaparte's gulls pass through as do Forster's and Black terns. In
summer several species of swallow feed over the lake. Next cross through
the rail fence and walk the old road on the north shore. In winter this
is the place to check for waterfowl. Scoters and Oldsquaws have been
recorded several times. In spring the trees will have Northern and
Orchard orioles; Warbling Vireos nest in the taller trees. Common
Yellowthroats nest in tangles of shrubby growth across the stream north
of the path. A variety of thrushes may be found in early spring. In
summer and early fall egrets and herons congregate, and night-herons are
possible. Shorebirds usually find exposed mud flats at the west end of
the lake. Red-tailed and Red-shouldered hawks are frequent, and
Sharp-shinned or Cooper's hawks are a possibility in fall and winter.
Many maps show this lake with the name
"Recreation Lake." However, over 20 years ago the lake was renamed in
honor of Dick Sherry, who was instrumental in the founding of the
Center. Not all the map makers have yet gotten the word!
To reach Sanctuary
Woods from the Nature Center, turn left at the first intersection (0.4)
and left again (1.0) into the circle drive. Always lock cars with
valuables out of sight when parking. Before entering through the split
rail fence, pause to check for possible Mississippi Kites from late
April to September. They nested here in 1984. The area near the gate is
called Thrush Gate by local birders as the first report in Oklahoma of
Varied Thrush was from this spot. Veery, Hermit (winter), Swainson's
(common), and Gray-cheeked thrush are possible in spring.
The short path through
the woods has traditionally been an excellent birding area. Pairs of
Red-breasted Nuthatch have been called up near the fence in winter, and
the Kentucky Warbler usually nests in deep woods in summer. The
White-eyed Vireo nests in shrubby areas, and in damp spots off the trail
either of the waterthrushes and the Ovenbird may turn up in migration.
The trail opens on the north into a long grassy clearing called the
Flowline. Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak are common in summer, and
Broad-winged Hawk has nested in the tall trees. If kites are around,
they may hunt over the Flowline. Barred Owls call from here in the
evenings and must nest nearby. When returning through the woods to the
car, find a spot to sit quietly and listen. (Watch the poison ivy.) In
mid-May, with as many as 15 warbler species migrating through, the sound
can be unforgettable.
East Road and Phoebe Bridge
The park road
technically called Cherokee Drive is better known to the birders as the
East Road or Phoebe Bridge Road. This is the first road to the right
after the toll booth at the park entrance. To drive from the Nature
Center, proceed as for Blackbird Marsh past the circle drive to the next
intersection, which is mid-way along the road described below. This area
may be birded while driving or on foot. Road-side trees and brush hold
many species, and there are several equestrian trails to walk with good
opportunities to find birds.
Much of this section
is wet in spring and attracts Wood Ducks, Yellowcrowned Night-Herons
and Little Blue Herons. The small bridge on the road is usually among
the first spots each year to have Eastern Phoebe. The woods near the
bridge may have both Barred and Great Horned owls. Check the trail east
of the bridge and big trees near the roadside. Past the bridge (0.2) is
another wet spot which can be interesting as Red-shouldered Hawks have
nested in nearby trees. Farther east and. north along the road near the
intersection from the left is a large, grassy soccer field where large
'flocks of Brewer's Blackbirds have come in early winter and in spring,
Bobolinks. Frequently the field may be covered with Killdeer or Robins.
Eastern Bluebirds nest, perhaps in open ends of the soccer goal pipe as
well as natural wood cavities. At the intersection, bear right and
continue to Sherry Lake or left to the stone shelter, called the