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.
This report primarily
concerns the Greater Prairie-Chicken and birds of prey. The area is 80%
native tall grass prairie with grain fields, ponds, and marshes. The
route is broken occasionally with small streams and riparian woodlands
or with heavy windbreaks of red cedar on the high plateaus.
Prairie-Chickens are numerous and can be observed in morning and evening
feeding in grain fields around Grainola from early October through
February. After March 1 they can easily be located on their booming
grounds in the Hardy area and are not ordinarily seen in grain fields.
Hardy is best approached
on the west from Newkirk. Begin the route at Skiatook in northern Tulsa
County, going west on SH 20 nearly to Ralston, then north on SH 18 to
Shidler. From Shidler (0.0) go west on SH 11, crossing Kaw Reservoir, to
US 77 (25.0) and north to Newkirk (9.0). Follow Main St. north to 7 St.
and turn east (0.0). Cross the railroad tracks and follow the blacktop
11 miles to turn north on a graveled road as shown on the map. From this
point it is 8 to 10 miles north to Hardy. Watch for the big relay tower
on the left. Hardy is very small with few houses and is easily missed.
It might be helpful to spend a night in Ponca City or in Newkirk, giving
one an opportunity to drive out the evening before to check out the
various booming grounds. The best way to see the chickens is from a car
at daybreak. The grounds can be watched from a car, but to get closer to
the display area permission would need to be secured.
To reach Grainola follow
the above route to Shidler, continuing north for 12 miles on SH 18.
Drive slowly past the many grain fields, stopping now and then to scan
with binoculars. Many times the chickens will fly over or walk to the
road. This is beautiful country where one can see for miles in any
direction. In spring the grasses are sprinkled with a rainbow of
wildflowers; in winter the big bluestem, washed with winter sun, turns
into a sea of gold.
During winter months the
prairies between Grainola and Hardy attract many birds of prey.
Red-tailed and Rough-legged hawks, Harriers, and Kestrels are abundant.
Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks; Ferruginous Hawks; both Golden and
Bald eagles; many Prairie Falcons and a few Merlins have been observed.
Great Horned, Burrowing, and Barred owls are here but are not easily
found. Short-eared Owls are expected in some locations. From October
through April many ducks and geese frequent the lakes and ponds and feed
in the grain fields.
To drive across the
prairies from Grainola, take an old blacktop road (mostly gravel) 0.5
mile north of town (0.0) west 8 miles to cross a cattle guard into a
large ranch. Follow the road past the first big barn (2.5) with a hill
on the north. A short distance ahead is a modern ranch home and a lake
south of the road. The route turns north then west, twice again past two
more large barns and the big tower looms across the prairie. The next
north-south road is the one leading north to Hardy or south to the