Date: 12/27/17 6:38 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
We had a productive loon trip to Tenkiller Ferry Lake in northeastern Oklahoma yesterday. Observers included Bob and Sara Caulk, Anant Deshwal and me. Tenkiller isn’t that far from Fayetteville with reward in winter of many loons. These trips are best when there is low wind (below max 7-8 mph) because in big open water, you can see a lot, even at distance, with flat water. We also had benefit of very little boat traffic.

Corps of Engineer parks we visited were partially closed, but we managed to find places to observe the lake. We made stops at Strayhorn, Tenkiller State Park, Blackgum, Snake Creek, Buckhorn, Chicken Creek, 6-shooter, Cookson Bend, and Standing Rock-Cherokee Landing State Park. This is mainly what’s relatively easily reached if you are coming from Arkansas. There are lots of other places to go, especially on the other side of the lake. We miss stuff for sure.

We found Common Loons in abundance (146), but no other loon species; Bald Eagles (10); American White Pelicans (100+); Horned (numerous) and Pied-billed Grebes, several ducks species, especially Mallards; and both Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed Gulls at every stop. The loons were well-distributed across the lake, with the most (28) visible from 6-shooter. We had three spotting scopes, so gave the lake careful looks, but did not find other loon species, though I have little doubt they must be there (as in past years).

Did we hear loons yodeling? Absolutely. When we pulled in above the marina at Strayhorn, there was something going on between two loons that resulted in extending yodels, barks, wing-flaps, apparent chases, etc. We had yodeling and barks elsewhere, too, but nothing like the displays and vocalizations off Strayhorn.

It is difficult to make a trip like this and not wonder why we mainly find loons at Beaver Lake in migration, but infrequently in winter. Why is Tenkiller such a winter loon mecca? Loons eat fish, so it must have something to do with fish?

NWA Outdoors editor and angler Flip Putthoff has an article in the Democrat Gazette (“Anglers earn stripes,” December 26) about Striped Bass and their preference for small threadfin shad. A striper in Beaver that grows to 40 pounds is bound to eat lots of shad. Is there some connection here, like more big stripers equals less potential forage for winter loons?

I have no idea what’s going. Would be good from a conservation angle to understand what makes a good winter lake for loons and why winter loons seem to avoid some lakes.

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