Northwest Sludge Lagoon (OKC)

LOCATION:  NW Oklahoma City Sludge Lagoon (John Marshall Mid-High School 12201 Portland Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73120)

35.5920619,-97.5906837

Contributed by:  Zach Poland

Located near the intersection of NW 122nd Street and Portland Ave, the Oklahoma City Sludge Lagoon is a water retainment and flood control pond. 

Habitat that the NW Oklahoma City Sludge lagoon offers includes: standing shallow water, extensive mudflats, rocky shoreline, willow thickets, cattail stands, weedy areas and manicured lawns.  The habitat makes ducks, shorebirds, gulls, terns and waders among the target species.  When water is high at the local water supply lakes (i.e. Lakes Hefner and Overholser), the NW Oklahoma City Sludge Lagoon offers some of the only reliable shorebird habitat in the metropolitan area.  In June and July, the sludge lagoon is a good place to observe the mating rituals of the federally endangered Interior Least Tern (Sternula antillarum athalassos).  Over 130 species have been observed at the lagoon to date (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2367145).

Viewing the lagoon is somewhat restricted. The best public observation point is from the west parking lot at John Marshall Mid-High School (12201 Portland Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73120).  Occasionally, the lagoon can be observed from the south at the North Oklahoma City Soccer Club, but this is private property, and the entrance gate is generally locked.  Since the best area to view the lagoon is from John Marshall School property, it is suggested that birding the lagoon be restricted to off-school hours.  Mornings when the sun is behind the observer provide the best light.  Restrooms and other amenities at the site are not available.  Fencing around the perimeter of the lagoon prevents observers from getting close to the shoreline, so a spotting scope may be preferred, however binoculars will suffice. 

Access to the lagoon via public transportation (EMBARK bus) is poor, with the closest stop being about 1.5 miles away.  If arriving by car, free parking is available in the John Marshall School parking lot.  The immediate area is considered safe and the division police department is located directly to the north of the lagoon (3924 NW 122nd St, Oklahoma City, OK 73120).

Below is a list of birds (not exhaustive) that can be observed at the lagoon. 

Winter:  Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Buffelhead, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and Herring Gull.

Summer:  Chimney Swift, Least Tern, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Mississippi Kite, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, and Purple Martin.

Migration:  Eared Grebe, Semipalmated Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, Sanderling, Baird’s Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Spotted Sandpiper, Franklin’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, and Forster’s Tern.

Year-round residents:  Canada Goose, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Red-tailed Hawk, American Crow, Red-winged Blackbird, and Great-tailed Grackle. 

The NW Oklahoma City Sludge Lagoon is located near other northwest Oklahoma City birding hotspots, including Lake Hefner and Martin Nature Park, and can conveniently be combined with those locations into a more exhaustive time in the field to sample the avifauna that central Oklahoma has to offer.