Nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks, just south of Vian and I-40, sets Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1970, it’s just one of 540 located in the U.S.
As most of you know, the refuge’s name honors Sequoyah, a Native American who invented a Cherokee alphabet consisting of syllables that allowed his tribe to preserve their traditions and history in writing.
Recently, I had the chance to visit with Chad Ford, a visiting services specialist for the refuge, to talk about some of the wintertime activities available for those seeking a reason to venture out of the house. With the beautiful weather we’ve enjoyed lately, we need to take every opportunity to get outdoors while we can.
While the refuge offers a smorgasbord of things to see and do, the observation of the eagles in the wintertime has proved to be the most unique draw.
“The refuge features two nature trails that are recognized as National Recreation Trails by the United States Department of the Interior,” Ford said. “Both trails are one-mile loops, paved, and easy for all users.”
Excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and photography exist on both trails. The trails feature observation decks and seating areas that help make it great place for everyone.
Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge has partnered with the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center to bring the Sequoyah NWR Eagle Cam to life.
Two cameras mounted above an active eagle nest streams live images to the Internet to allow everyone to watch the nesting activity from the comforts of home. The images from the camera can be accessed through the Sequoyah NWR home page (http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/oklahoma/sequoyah/index.html).
At the bottom of the page you will find a link that will direct you to the site displaying the live images.
The refuge will be hosting eagle tours at 9 a.m. Saturdays beginning Jan. 21 and ending March 3. The tours are free and usually last 2-3 hours.
Eagle viewing activities exist in other local areas throughout the winter. According to the Oklahoma Wildlife Department, eagles began arriving in Oklahoma in November and early December. Their numbers peak in January and February, and most birds have left for their northern breeding grounds by the end of March.
Less than 30 years ago, the bald eagle was struggling to survive in America’s lower 48 states. Thanks to strong protection and avid recovery efforts, eagle populations have increased seven-fold since the early 1970s. Bald eagles are sociable in winter, roosting communally in trees near a food source. The same roost trees are traditionally used year after year.
“Oklahoma has over 100 bald eagles that live here year-round, including 49 known breeding pairs,” said Lesley McNeff, wildlife diversity information specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
One viewing is scheduled for Sunday and again Jan. 28-29 at Fort Gibson Lake. Members of the Indian Nations Aububon Society will be on site with spottling scopes. Contact Jim Harman (918) 478-3920 or Jeri McMahon, (918) 478-4010.