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Clayton-Sardis Area

Pushmataha, Pittsburg and Latimer Counties

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From the 1986 edition of A Guide to Birding in Oklahoma published by the Tulsa Audubon Society. This account was partially reviewed and updated in 2007.

The Clayton area is within the Ouachita Mountains and is typical of the oak-shortleaf pine biotic region that dominates southeastern Oklahoma. Located in a valley between the Jackfork Mountains on the west, the Winding Stair Mountains on the northeast, and the Kiamichi Mountains on the east, the area is a mix of forest lands and open rangelands with cattle ranches.

There are three excellent birding areas nearby that are open to the public: Sardis Reservoir, Clayton Lake and Recreation Area, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Pushmataha Game Management Area. SH 2 follows the Kiamichi River from the northeastern section west and south across Pushmataha County to the Hugo Reservoir. Birders wishing to find birds on this route should inquire locally.

Sardis Reservoir

Sardis Reservoir, a 14,360 acre flood control lake, is just north of Clayton. Stop at the Corps of Engineers Project Office, about 6 miles north of Clayton on SH 2, if additional maps of the lake are needed. Improved roads allow one to travel around the lake and there are a number of public access areas. As this is a new lake (impounded in fall of 1982), all bird records are welcomed. Be sure to indicate the Pittsburg, Pushmataha, and Latimer County lines as shown on the map. Especially needed are records of herons, egrets, waterfowl, and shorebirds. Black-shouldered Kites nested in 1982; usually seen flying over valley areas between mountain ridges, they have not been seen since. Broad-winged and Red-shouldered hawks are to be found in the woodlands. Indigo and Painted buntings abound during May and June.

For the adventurer, follow the graveled county road from the northeast ("The Narrows" on the map), the northern Jackfork Creek arm of the lake. Note this left turn, for the trip will continue on the north side of the lake from this point. This is a "back-woods" country, wild and beautiful, not for fast driving but a place to stop and savor its many aspects. An interesting spot is the small creek left of the road past the Sardis store where a Green-backed Heron may be found under the shade of overhanging trees in summer. Summer Tanagers and Great Crested Flycatchers are in the taller trees near the road. The Wild Turkey and Northern Bobwhite frequent brushy areas near oak trees.

Drive through the village of Counts, about 10 miles, and continue north for 3 or 4 miles to enter a pine forest of the Jackfork Mountains. Here Brown-headed Nuthatches, Rufous-crowned and Bachman's sparrows can sometimes be found. Unless the Bachman's is singing (mid-April to early May) the species is almost impossible to find. Learn the song which begins with a long "inhaled" note rather like that of the White-throated Sparrow. Habitat for the ground nester is open pinelands with second-growth scrub and underbrush. The area along the Jackfork is all privately owned so one should work from the road. Just north of Counts are signs to Gary Sherrer Wildlife Management Area (previously named Bolen Hollow WMA) but the roads should not be attempted in anything but a pick-up truck or a four-wheel drive vehicle. Unless you have a county road map you should return over the same route. After heavy rains parts of the road may become impassable with little room to turn around. Forge ahead to the Sardis Baptist Church and turn back.

On the northern side of Sardis Lake the habitat is more open; birding opportunities are good with additional species to be found. On returning to the lake road, drive east along the "relocated" road which travels past scattered farms and small public use areas. After about 2 miles drive into the Sardis Cemetery on a narrow peninsula. Both Black and Turkey vultures may be seen in the air. If the lane is dry, go as far as possible, checking weedy edges for Lark and Field sparrows.

Along the county road Loggerhead Shrikes may nest in small trees. Listen for Blue Grosbeaks in tall shrubby growth away from the road. Dickcissels are common. Continue north and east to Yanush, a small village on SH 2 where one may purchase gas and groceries. Trees here may have nesting Northern and Orchard Orioles.

Clayton Lake and Recreation Area

Clayton Lake and Recreation Area will be found by driving south from Clayton on US 271. The entrance is well marked on the east side of the highway. Campsites and picnic tables will be found under the big pines. This is a popular spot and may be full of noisy people. The open areas of the park are usually productive for birding.

Click here for PDF version of this map with recreation information

Click here for PDF version of this map with recreation information




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Last modified: September 21, 2009




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