As many of you know, I consult with ranchers who are considering commercial photography operations, thus I spent this past weekend visiting the Selman Ranch at Woodward, Oklahoma and the Coffman Ranch on Quartz Mountain at Granite, Oklahoma. Both have tremendous potential!
The Selman Ranch has lesser prairie chickens and many other species including redheaded woodpecker, belted kingfisher, gray fox, Harris’s sparrow. While Sue Selman, some neighboring ranchers and I visited a potential photo blind site, a pair of redheaded woodpeckers were active at a nest cavity about 8 feet off the ground in a dead cottonwood. I can’t tell you how I was wishing for my camera and tripod. The nest location was ideal.
At the Coffman Ranch, I was introduced to beautiful granite mountains with huge boulders and a population of collared lizards the locals call “mountain boomers”. In the spring and early summer, the male lizard (about 15″ long) is tourquois colored with an orange head. They were magnificant, numerous and approachable. Robert Coffman’s ranch has numerous small ponds and scattered groves of mesquite, post oak, and hackberry. He is in the process of developing a bird list, but we saw black-chinned hummingbird, Bewick’s wren, yellow-billed cuckoo, wild turkey and painted bunting. Robert has plans for a blind on one pond where hooded mergansers winter consistently, so I’m hoping to return this winter!
The ranches have ample accommodations for photographers and they will do the cooking. Sue is quite a chef and Robert makes the same claim, ha. Actually, we had a great fish fry one evening and a hearty breakfast the next morning, so photographers won’t leave either ranch suffering from weight loss.
There wasn’t much time for photography during the consultation, but here are some sample photos from these ranches. Once their blinds are in place, I will put together a trip and invite you to join me.
Click in the upper right portion of any photo to see it in a larger, sharper format and to advance from one photo to the next.
Budding cactus on granite mountain.
I haven’t determined the species of this cactus, but it was abundant at the Coffman Ranch and grew in large colonies on the granite mountain. This shot is at sunrise before the cactus blooms opened. The photo was taken with a Canon 1D Mark III and 16-35 mm lens on Arca Swiss monoball and Gitzo 1348 cf tripod from ground level. I always wear knee and elbow pads for this type of photography.
- Granite outcroppings and lichens on Quartz Mountain at the Coffman Ranch.
Quartz Mountain on the Coffman Ranch lies at the west end of a range of granite peaks that extend from the Wichita Mountains near Lawton to Granite, Oklahoma, a distance of approximately 60 miles.
Harris's Sparrows winter on both ranches. This one sits on a water pump jack at the Selman Ranch headquarters.
Lesser Prairie Chicken males booming on the Selman Ranch lek in early April.
The Selman Ranch has a lesser prairie chicken lek where photographers sit close enough to capture great action at sunrise from late March to May. Occasionally, a male ring-necked pheasant (below) will arrive at the lek before daylight to battle the male chickens. Although confused about his species identity, this bird provided a nice photo opportunity for us as we awaited sunrise in our pop-up blinds at the edge of the lek.
- Ring-necked Pheasant who thinks he is a lesser prairie chicken.
The pheasant shot was done before sunrise with the 1D Mark III Canon camera and 500 mm IS Canon lens on a Wimberley head and Gitzo 1348 cf tripod from a Cabelas popup blind.
I will be working at some of the south Texas sites this coming week, trying to capture nesting altamira oriole, red-crowned parrots and masked duck. Wish me luck.