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My family and I went on a hike in northwestern Oklahoma over the weekend. On beautiful white gypsum trails, in an area that is mostly covered by cedar trees, prickly pear, and is known for it's rattle snakes.

We didn't see any snakes this time. Which was surprising. After last week, with all the snakes out and about, they seem to have holed up for some reason. We also went herping this weekend, at night at a nearby pond in central Oklahoma, and there was a curious absence of snakes that night too.

But on this sunny day, the whole area around Watonga was in Bloom. Watonga and Geary and surrounding areas are rural farmland. Tiny, tiny towns encircled by vast wheat, sorghum, and hay fields dotted by oil and natural gas wells. That line in America the Beautiful, "Amber waves of grain," well this is one of the places to see that. The locals are friendly folk too.

It's beautiful country.

We went to Roman Nose State Park for a day and hiked different parts of the canyon. My husband had heard that the park was in bloom, and thought it would be a good place to take photographs of pollinators. And when we got there, there were acres of blooming wild flowers. Indian Blankets, yellow flowered prickly pears cacti, white yarrow, white prickly poppies, yucca plants, green milkweed, sensitive briar, toothed evening primrose, yellow sweet clover, lemon-horse mint, and some plants that I have no clue what they are. Which is surprising. I usually have a clue.

When we went to these areas in full bloom, there were so many butterflies that it looked like an undulating carpet of wings and petals. There were sulphurs, variagated fritillaries, red admirals, black swallowtails, monarchs, common snouts, buckeyes, and painted ladies, and American ladies.

There were also Marine blues and Grey Hairstreaks and some skippers as well.

We timed it just right. Because it was *THE day to see all of these, en masse at one time.

There were also bees and wasps about. However of all the areas I hiked, I did not see one Bumble bee, which struck me as odd. I believe this area was hit harder by the drought than central Oklahoma, so it could be that the Bumble Bee populations were slower to build this season, and fewer of them too.

The carpenter bees were out in force. Mostly it was males patrolling their areas, waiting for a female to happen by. You can tell the males from the females, because males have a big white triangle on their face. The females don't. Not that you care when an large bee is flying into your face at a high rate of speed! They are very aggressive and will bump you and fly and hover right in front of you, but they have no stingers. Most people don't know that though and it scares the crap right out of them. Some of these were Eastern Carpenter Bees, but others appeared to be a bit different. They were iridescent on their black parts. Usually Eastern Carpenter Bees are a shiny black vinyl color. Compare to the Southern Carpenter Bee.  I have seen the Southern Carpenter bee, and photographed them as well in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. I was surprised to see them this far North though.

We saw more than a few honey bees, and some digger bees as well as one Velvet ant. The bee identifications will take me a while longer to make. There are just so many, and except for size, it can be difficult to tell them apart.

Having traveled to this park many times before, I was surprised that we saw no tarantulas or centipedes. There are usually lots of those in the area.

Later we went fishing, and noted that the damsel flies were mating all along the shoreline. Most of them in varying shades of turquoise blue.. There were also numerous Rubyspot Damselflies. They were also doing some kind of courtship dances, and mating pairs could sometimes be seen on the rocks. We did not see many Dragonflies though. I am not sure why that is. I think I saw one or two pond hawks, but they flew by so fast that I could not make a positive ID.

We saw no bats that evening. Though on the way there, and on the way out, near every bridge we crossed on the highways, there were colonies of swallows hunting flying insects over the bridge.

There were lots of turkey buzzards about as well as Canada geese, one pair with goslings.  And sadly I think I saw one dead Porcupine on the highway. I am not entirely sure, because we didn't stop. We were going quite fast.

For the record, none of the sites I linked to for identification purposes, are my photographs. I would like to share some photos and some footage as well, but I am still working that part out.

I am not sure if I should build a separate blog and just do it there, of if I should use the hosting sites listed in the cranky user-file.

Any advice would be welcome. I used to keep a blog on blogger, but I really despise Google's  "Privacy" practices.

5:12 PM PT: I still haven't figured out the video part, but there are some photos. Here goes:

Damselflies

These are bluets and a ruby spot damselfly.

Damselflies and Dragonflies are cagey, so I have to zoom in on them from a distance to get a decent shot. So if you try to enlarge this picture, the quality isn't that great.

Prickly Pear Blooms

These are prickly pears in bloom. Most of them are yellow with a yellow-green center. Though I saw some variations with some orange at the blossom end.

Unknown Wildflower
Still working on the ID for this flower, the sweat bee that is visiting it, is probably an agapostemon [tentative ID] so cut me some slack here, I am not an entymologist.

Green Antelope horn Milkweed
This is a male carpenter bee. I do not believe that this is an Eastern Carpenter Bee. I suspect that the Xylocopa Virginica Texana has increased it's range further north into Oklahoma. These carpenter bees are iridescent instead of just a shiny black. You can tell this is a male by that white triangle on his face. He is drinking nectar from a Green Antelope-horn Milkweed or Asclepias viridis. I thought this was called spider milkweed, but now I am not so sure. So I will have to see if this is an alternate term or if I got the wrong milkweed name. The little butterfly next to the bee is a Grey Hairstreak.

Originally posted to GreenMother on Tue May 08, 2012 at 06:47 AM PDT.

Also republished by Backyard Science.

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