Summer Events at Oxley Nature Center
Forests and Prairies
Insects & Arthropods
Fish Reptiles &
Amphibians (Herps) Birds
|What's blooming? Starting
around the first of July, Blackbird Marsh is spectacular with the
flowering of American lotus! Members of the daisy family and the pea
family are in full bloom this time of year. The royal purple of ironweed
makes a fine show with the rich color of goldenrod. By the way, goldenrod
causes very few allergies, but it blooms about the same time that ragweed
does. The green pollen-shaker flowers of ragweed are hard to see, but they
distribute tons of fine, air-borne pollen, up until frost. To identify
what's in the photo, run the cursor over the picture (this should work on
all the photos) and a label will appear. The fourth Saturday and the
following Sunday Oxley Nature Center hosts free Wildflower Walks. Please
check the current calendar for times. Pre-registration is
|Redbud Valley's ferns
may be dried-up and shriveled, unless they have found a damp shady
place to grow. Look for powdery cloakfern and purple cliffbrake along
the top of the bluff where the trail goes up from the parking lot.
Ebony spleenwort may be found along the mossy wall where the trail
goes through the ravine. Bright green woodsia sprouts out of the
bluffs near the springs and caves.
and Prairies: Summer drought may cause trees to drop their
leaves. This is normal "summer dormancy", and new leaves
will appear in late summer when the drought ends. By the end of
August, sumac species are already turning scarlet.
The big prairie grasses send their flowering stalks shooting upwards
now, sometimes towering overhead at 8 or 9 feet!
Butterflies love hot summer weather, but they need enough rain to find
drinking water and flowers full of nectar. Caterpillars are
everywhere! Summer is when many of the big butterflies become
numerous: swallowtails, fritillaries, monarchs are all easier to find.
The second Saturday of each month from spring until fall, Oxley Nature
Center hosts a free Butterfly ID program and/or hike, weather
permitting, Please check the current
calendar for times. Pre-registration is
|One way to learn the butterflies is to keep
a record of what species of butterflies you see, and how many of each
species. Go to the North American Butterfly Association's website
and click on the "Butterflies I've Seen" database. Log on
(it's free), and post your observations.
|On the July 1, 2003 Tulsa Count, 53 species
of butterflies were found, and 1397 individual butterflies were
counted! This year's count added several species never before observed
on the Tulsa Count: Bronze Copper, Arogos Skipper, Broad-winged
Skipper, Byssus Skipper, and Tawny-edged Skipper.
|Other insects and arthropods: Insects
provide the soundtrack for a summer day or a summer night. Pay
attention to the different voices. One kind of cicada (the big
goggle-eyed insect many of us call "locust") sings during
the morning, after temperatures rise to about 80 degrees. Other
species of cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers, and katydids call during
the afternoon or evening. Early reports predicted a big population of
grasshoppers this summer. True locusts are a large grasshopper that
can occur in gigantic flocks.
|Fall webworms are already at work, weaving webs around
their hungry colonies. Before you rush out to deal with them, consider
this. One of the Oxley staff naturalists spent many hot, sweaty hours
one summer removing all the webworm colonies from the trees in her
yard with a long pole. The trees barely had any leaves left on them,
webworm-eaten? summer dormancy? Well, when the fall rains began, and
the trees leafed out again in September, it was impossible to see any
difference between the trees she had cleared of caterpillars and the
untended, definitely webworm-eaten trees of the nearby roadsides. All
had recovered equally well.
|As for mosquitoes, remember that when
insecticide is used, many species other than mosquitoes may be
affected. Do your part to control mosquitoes in your area; make sure
you have eliminated potential breeding places, such as stagnant water
in birdbaths, saucers under flowerpots, and clogged gutters. Abandoned
tires are one of the worst sources of mosquito breeding places since
they hold water so persistently. For more information about West Nile
Virus, check out this article
from the North American Butterfly Association. Natural mosquito
controls include spiders, robber flies, and dragonflies.
|Chiggers, the larvae of a small red mite, become active
when the temperature goes above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Ticks are also
plentiful now. Both chiggers and ticks are more likely to be
encountered if you go off-trail and brush against, sit upon, or push
through tall grass and thick vegetation. Repellents help, but it's
best to bathe and then change clothes from the skin outward as soon as
possible after your hike. By the time your chigger bite begins to
itch, the chigger itself is long gone. It will take your skin about 10
days to heal, longer if you scratch the bite and get it infected.
Forests and Prairies
|Fish: At the
water's edge, look for gambusia, also known as mosquitofish.
Mosquitofish are much like guppies: they do not grow very big, and
instead of laying eggs they give birth to live young. The mosquitofish
that are more than an inch long and look very lumpy in the belly are
probably pregnant females. Mosquitofish are predators, eating other
aquatic creatures that will fit in their mouths; they do eat mosquito
If no rain keeps the water moving through creeks and lakes, fish can
begin to die from lack of oxygen. Some species can tolerate poor water
conditions better than others.
spring weather first brought out both amphibians and reptiles. Now the
hot, dry weather can send them into hiding again. Snakes are harder to
find when the weather turns hot, and that's why chiggers become so
annoying. If they cannot feed on reptiles, their favorite food,
chiggers turn to other sources of food, like us. Redbud Valley has had
an occasional copperhead or rattlesnake reported, so be sure to wear
closed-toe shoes when you hike there. Box turtles may be found along
area roads and trails. A brief rustle in the leaves at the side of the
trail tells you there was a lizard that just whisked itself away, or
you may be lucky enough to spy a tiny baby skink. The only frog voices
of summer are the slow, deep "Ba-a-a-r-r-umph!" of an
occasional bullfrog and the noisy, sheep-like "Baaaaa!" of
narrow-mouth toads, also known as sheep frogs.
Photo by Susie Ruby
Nature Center hosts a free bird-watching hike jointly with the Tulsa
Audubon Society on the first Saturday of each month, from 8:00 am to
about 9:45 am. There is no registration, just bring your binoculars,
if you have them, and join us. Also, the Tulsa Audubon Society goes
birding every Tuesday morning. They depart from the Tulsa Garden
Center's parking lot (2435 South Peoria) at 7:30 am. The morning's
observations end with a potluck picnic. New birders are welcome.
|Although Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds
arrived in Tulsa in April, they are scarce at backyard feeders until
some time in July. At that time there will be adult males with
bright red throats, as well as females and juveniles with white
throats. Hang out feeders filled with one part sugar to 4 parts
water, preferably in an area protected by trees and shrubs.
During hot dry weather, providing fresh water for drinking and
bathing is more important to birds and other wildlife than putting
|Bird migration begins during the summer.
Least terns which nested on the sandbars of the Arkansas River will
be among the first to leave, followed by shorebirds and purple
martins. Before the purple martins leave in early August, you can
observe the spectacle of their huge flocks gathering during the
evenings. Watch along power lines or in the trees along the Arkansas
|The Nature Center continues to get phone calls from
people who have found injured or
orphan birds. If you decide to assist an injured bird or other
wildlife, please be careful and sensible so that you do not get
injured, also. And be very sure the nestling or other wildlife baby
is truly orphaned before you try to help it. In most cases, keeping
curious fingers and excited pets away is the best thing you can do.
Most of the baby animals of the past spring are now gawky
adolescents and young adults. Once they leave their parents, young
coyotes and raccoons and groundhogs search for their own
territories, not always eating as well as adults with established
homes. Some of the smaller mammals born this spring, like rodents
and rabbits, are now having babies or even grandbabies of their own!
The summer heat can be hard on animals wearing fur; mammals are
usually lying low during the middle of the day. The best time for
finding deer and other mammals out roaming around is to walk the
trails just after sunrise, or during the long summer evenings,
parking outside Oxley's main gate or at Shelter #4.
Insects & Arthropods
& Amphibians (Herps) Birds
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Photos by Donna Horton, unless otherwise noted.