Meet at 7:30 a.m. at the main entrance to the Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Our target birds will be migrating fall warblers. Bell Slough is a mix of ecosystems consisting of 2,040 acres of woodlands and wetlands situated between Little Rock and the Mayflower/Conway region. There are 117 species of birds documented for the area, including the adjacent waterfowl resting habitat. The Bell Slough Nature Trail consists of three connecting trails, each ranging in length from about a half-mile to 2 1/4 miles. The WMA also has a nice mix wildflowers that attract numerous butterflies. Wear study walking shoes. This will be a morning trip.
From Little Rock, go west on I-40. Exit I-40 at Mayflower (Exit 135) and turn east (right) at the light onto Hwy. 89. Then turn south (right) just past the commuter parking lot. Follow the service road paralleling I-40, then veer right at the fork. This is the new link to Grassy Lake Road. After crossing the Palarm Creek bridge, turn left into the WMA parking lot.
Saturday, August 17 a record number of 45 birders descended on the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge in White County. Four birders had traveled from Memphis to join our group. The cooler than normal temperatures and cloud cover were appreciated by all. Only two ponds were drained, the rest of the refuge was still in rice and soybean fields. We made a quick scan of the ponds, which contained a mix of shorebirds, egrets, and herons. The Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills were a no-show, much to everyone’s disappointment. We decided to take advantage of the cloud cover to briefly abandon the mudflats and drive to the buttonbush swamp to see if any of the Night-herons were still active. Mitchell Pruitt led the caravan of cars and had a flyover of an adult Tricolored Heron. The heron dove into the Bald Cypress trees and refused to show himself to the rest of the group. We did get great looks at several adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night-herons, plus an adult Bald Eagle who did a leisurely fly-by.
Back at the mudflats, we did a more thorough scan of the shorebirds. Best finds were Buff-breasted, Baird’s, and Stilt Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers. There were also a couple dozen Black-necked Stilts, plus plenty of Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green Herons, Great Egrets, and a couple of Snowy Egrets. We also had a Painted Bunting and a Black Tern.
Cindy Franklin and Donna Haynes split from the group to check the east side of Coal Chute Road. They called to report a Tricolored Heron. Our group raced to the spot and arrived just as the Tricolored flew from the drainage ditch to join a Great Egret in another section of the ditch. It flew directly at us before turning towards the egret, giving us awesome looks at its long reddish neck and upperwing coverts, which confirmed it as a juvenile and second bird in addition to Mitchell’s adult Tricolored.
Terry Bulter called to report several hundred shorebirds at Saul’s fish farm. Several birders were willing to extend the trip into the afternoon with a drive to Prairie Co. At Saul’s, the best drained pond contained 2 Willets and a Greater Yellowlegs for a good size comparison. There were also Baird’s, Western, and Pectoral Sandpipers, plus more egrets and herons. Perched on the wires above the pond were Bank, Tree, and Barn Swallows. We ended the day with 42 species at Bald Knob and 19 species at Saul’s.