Saturday, thirteen birders headed south to Hope to look for “southern” birds for the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas’s July field trip. First stop was the McDonald’s in Hope, a reliable spot for french-fry scavaging Great-tailed Grackles. The parking lot was hopping with GTGRs, including three juveniles begging mom to feed them more junk food. We then headed to Bois D’Arc Wildlife Management Area south of Hope. We got very lucky on the weather. In spite of the close to 100 degree weather predicted, the morning temps stayed around the mid-80’s. Most stops had shade, and with a nice breeze blowing, we stayed reasonably comfortable. We were entertained by Purple Gallinule chicks tottering around on the Water Lotus pads, little balls of fluff on top of their tall spindly legs and giant feet. Different families had different aged chicks. One momma Common Gallinule led a line of five babies paddling along behind her as she wove through the lotus pads. Green Herons were everywhere. Also seen were lots of Cattle Egrets, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, one Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorants, and four Anhingas. Least Bitterns were their usual stubborn selves, with only one flying by all morning.
We also had land birds. Red-headed Woodpeckers, Orchid Oriole, Summer Tanager, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbirds, lots of Red-winged Blackbirds, a soaring adult Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk, and Indigo Buntings.
We saw two alligators. The second one was really big and had found himself the perfect resting place. He was parked in the shade on the ground below the Cattle Egret rookery waiting for his feathered snacks to drop from above. It was obvious his strategy was working due to all the feathers scattered around him. In the middle of one of the rookeries, we found a Black-crowned Night-Heron on a nest, the second adult of the day. An early-arriving birder had found a juvenile BCNH before we got to the WMA.
By noon the temperature was climbing quickly so we called it quits and headed home. The dragonfly hunters had a great time also, spotting several more of the elusive and uncommon Two-striped Forceptail Dragonfly. A fun day with great birds and great birders.
ASCA Field Trip Coordinator