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We love to photograph and make high quality documentary style videos of the birds and butterflies of Oklahoma.
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Cedar Waxwings Basic Facts

Photos and article by Kathryn Mann

This is a Cedar Waxwing on the branch of a cedar tree in January

There is a small grove of Eastern Red Cedars on the trail I walk on several times a week in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. In late January there are usually several dozen Cedar Waxwings feasting on their small cones. Within a week all the Cedar Waxwings are gone and do not reappear in my area until late May when they begin to dine on several Mulberry trees (including a large one in my front yard). Cedar Waxwings love the mulberry fruit which looks like a blackberry, but tastes more like a grapefruit.

Cedar Waxwing perfect

As you can see from these photos the Cedar Waxwing is brown on top and has a yellow breast. It has a beautiful small feathered crest on its head and a white-lined black mask over its face which makes me refer to these guys as "bandit" birds. Their wings are a dark gray and are decorated with several red tips and a yellow border at the bottom of its tail.  The under tail is white. They are about 7 inches in length. They are very social creatures and often sit and feed next to several other waxwings. I often see one picking a berry and then passing it down a row of birds so they all get about the same number of berries. They also often clean one another. In my area you will often see a few Baltimore Orioles mixed in with a couple dozen Cedar Waxwings in a Mulberry Tree.

Cedar Waxwing eating

I have been told you might be able to attract Cedar Waxwings to your yard by putting some raisins or finely sliced apples on a raised feeder.

Cedar Waxwing close-up

Finally you may recall the children's nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel with the lyrics:

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun.
Pop! goes the weasel.
A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That's the way the money goes.
Pop! goes the weasel.
Up and down the City Road,
In and out of the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes.
Pop! goes the weasel.
Half a pound of tuppenney rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel.

The fact is there is no mulberry bush; it is a tree, and while it is unlikely you will find a monkey or weasel in one, they are a favorite May hangout for Cedar Waxwings, my "bandit bird".


Red-Winged Blackbird

 Photos and information by Charly Mann

 Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Female Red-Winged Blackbird saying, "I'm Queen of the marsh".  

The Red-Winged Blackbird is often found in Oklahoma around marshes and wetlands. The male is ultra-black with a red shoulder patch that is bordered by yellow on the bottom. The females bare no resemblablance to the male and look more like a large sparrow. They are heavily streaked on their chests and are smaller than males. Males are usually about 9 ½ inches long, while females are about 7. Like most wild birds they rarely live more than two years, but some have lived as long as 15 years.

Male Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbirds are one of the most polygamous birds in the world, and each male usually has between 5 to 15 females in their territory who they defend and mate with. The red-winged blackbird is also very talkative and has calls, songs, chirps, and whistles that have the following meanings; "This is my piece of the marsh", "Hey, look! Food!", “Be alert there may be danger near”, "Go build your nest somewhere else”, “Hello Sweetie!", and females can say "I'm queen of the marsh!"

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird (female)


Yellow Warbler of Oklahoma

Photos and information by Charly Mann

 Yellow Warbler of Oklahoma

These are a rare bird to see up close primarily due to their loss of habitat and the Brown-headed Cowbird, which often destroys the eggs in their nests and replaces them with their own.  Finding them can be difficult because they spend much of their time in heavily foliaged tress or grass lands that are swampy or recently flooded. They are very small birds measuring only 4  inches in length. They weigh about 11 grams.

Yellow Warbler

 Wild Canary



The Zen of Watching Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

by Charly Mann

Through this little hummingbird I have named Anne, I have experienced the stress release and complete awareness of Zen. For the last couple of weeks I have spent three to fours sitting under a tree while Anne is usually perched on a leafless branch no more than fifteen feet away. As I observe Anne watching for intruding birds or coming down to eat beside me, I become entranced in the here and now like never before.

This is Anne on right confronting an intruder in her territory 

Almost every time I go outside to be with Anne she buzzes down to within a few feet of me for ten to fifteen seconds to show her excitement, and then she goes over to some nearby flowers or feeder as I take my seat. She next ascends to her branch calmly, watching me and the rest of the world around her. Hummingbirds are highly intelligent animals, and Anne and I have formed a bond as close as I have with any of my beloved cats. Like a cat, Anne enjoys my companionship and the stimulation I provide her by regularly moving her feeders around the backyard. If I move or take away a feeder, she will come down to where I had placed it for several hours thoroughly searching the location for the missing feeder.

Much of her sedentary time is spent grooming and stretching. Of all the many species of birds I have observed up close, none is as fastidious as my hummingbird.

Anne is fearless not only of me, her giant friend, but almost any other bird that dares to perch in her tree. Whether it is a sparrow, cardinal, chickadee, or dove, she aggressively buzzes the poor creature until he leaves her tree, and then follows it off until it has gone a satisfactory distance. Most wild birds are frightened by the presence of nearby humans, yet Anne shows little fear around me, and seems as relaxed as I am when we commune together in nature.

Anne is spending her last days with me as she prepares to migrate more than 2000 miles to reach her winter home in Central America. To prepare for her long flight she is eating more than usual and putting on a potbelly to store up the extra fat needs for the long journey. I am sure she is already 50% over her summer weight of 1/8 of an ounce.
Anne, like other hummingbirds, is a solitary creature except for mating. Each protects their own feeding territory. They also migrate alone. Anne will do most of her flying during the day. Her flight down to the Gulf of Mexico from my home in northeast Oklahoma will take four to five days. When she gets to the Gulf of Mexico, she will start her flight during the day, but because it will take her between 18 and 24 hours to fly across, depending on the weather, this part of the trip will require flying at night until she reaches land. Her entire migration trip will take between one and two weeks.

Anne will probably be returning to my backyard by April. The miracle of hummingbird migration is that a bird will biologically feel the urge to put on weight in late summer and then fly, most likely to Panama, where it has never been, to spend the winter. For its entire life it will retrace the same route every year

Getting good pictures of hummingbirds is one of nature photography’s greatest challenges. They are extremely small and their wings move back and forth at about 400 inches per second. So even at a fast shutter speed all you can capture of their wings in flight is a blur. With my camera, a Canon 40D, even if I set the shutter speed to 1/8000 of a second, I cannot capture sharp images of their wings. However, a good hot shoe flash that can freeze an image at 1/20,000 of second solves much of this problem. I use, and highly recommend, Canon's top of the line 580EX speedlite flash. Even at this burst you will not be able to freeze the hummingbird’s wings in most shots, but you will get some.


Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher... the State Bird of Oklahoma

by Kathryn Mann

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher sitting on a barbed wire fence

This is the scissor-tailed flycatcher a bird that is unique to Oklahoma and surrounding states. In my opinion no other flying bird is so beautiful and striking.

In Texas it often goes by a name that I think is more appropriate, the bird of paradise. They are extremely important in protecting agriculture because they eat large quantities of grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects. 

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher eating an insect that she has just caught

I have taken hundreds of pictures of flycatchers, and never tire of seeing them elegantly pose for me. In most cases they have allowed me to get within 15 to 20 feet of them. 

The male flycatcher has a nine-inch-long tail and the female’s is one to two inches shorter. Only one other bird species in the world has such a long tail in proportion to their body.

Scissor-tailed flycatchers are primarily gray with scarlet patches on their upper breast. They have a black tail and white face. These birds are migratory and range during the year from the southeast of Mexico to Kansas, and parts of southeast Colorado and the western part of Missouri. Nowhere are they more abundant than Oklahoma, where they are the state bird. When male flycatchers court females they perform aerial acrobatics that often include reverse somersaults.


Swamp Milkweed Attracts Monarch Butterflies

by Kathryn Mann

Monarch Butterflies love this beautiful rose pink flowering plant called swamp milkweed. Monarchs and many of their relatives lay their eggs on this plant. When the egg hatches into a caterpillar it lives on the leaves of this milkweed. It will not stop feeding off the milkweed until it is about two inches long, and then it will attach to a tree branch to pupate into a cocoon. After two weeks a new butterfly will emerge from the cocoon.

As these pictures demonstrate it is not unusual to find many butterflies in a patch of milkweed. These photographs were all taken in a single small garden on October 12, 2008 in northeast Oklahoma. There were at least thirty monarchs, as well as several other types of butterflies, when I took these pictures.

Swamp milkweed grows naturally in many parts of the United States and does well as a garden plant. It grows in both full sun and part shade. It also attracts hummingbirds. The plant has a vanilla fragrance. It grows from 3 to 5 feet tall. It flowers in mid to late summer.


Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.

Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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