Twenty-seven birders hit the jackpot weather-wise for our field trip to Arkansas Post National Memorial Saturday. It was sunny with a light breeze and the temperature never climbed above 83 degrees. Our first stop was the Hwy. 169 bridge that crosses Little Post Bayou just before the park entrance. The Bayou is full of water lotus and water hyacinth, great habitat for Purple Gallinules and Common Gallinules (formerly Moorhen). No chicks were seen, but several adults were very cooperative. Life birds for our recent Halberg Ecology camper, Whit Hyde, and his mother and cousin. A Least Bittern made two lengthy cross-flights, flashing its large buffy wing patches. It vocalized multiple times from the reeds next to the road. An American Alligator and several Spotted Gar were seen swimming near the bridge, with one Anhinga circling above.
Next stop was the park’s Visitor Center, where park rangers in colonial uniforms described the multi-faceted history of the site and port. We were treated to an exhibition of live firings of cannon and flintlock musket. Before the firings began, an Anhinga soared overhead. Our second alligator of the day leisurely cruised the lake adjacent to the Visitor’s Center. Next, we walked the trail along Post Bend, part of the Arkansas Post Canal. We stopped at the site of Montgomery’s Tavern, where John James Audubon in 1822 described, painted, and named the Traill’s Flycatcher. The Traill’s has since been split into the Willow and Alder Flycatchers. Eastern Wood-Pewees and Acadian Flycatchers were seen and heard as we walked the trail. Several other flycatchers were seen but weren’t calling, so they had to go unidentified. A Warbling Vireo was warbling in the top of a tree next to the tavern site. We coaxed it lower for better looks. Life bird for several in our group.
At the Post Bayou picnic area, there was no sight of the breeding pair of Bald Eagles and their two offspring who had flown the nest last week. To everyone’s delight, a Least Bittern flushed from the reeds along the bank and flew to a nearby raft of water hyacinth. It proceeded to sit on the raft for several minutes while it caught and swallowed a minnow, stretched its neck, and pointed its bill to the sky several times. Excellent looks at this normally secretive bird!
We then visited the Menard Mounds area, located in a isolated part of the park. Just past a pair of mounds, a juvenile White Ibis did a flyover. Several newer birders were able to get close looks at a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. At Merrisach Lake Recreation Area, a couple dozen Least Terns were scattered all over the lake, soaring and diving, perching and preening. Also seen were numerous Barn Swallows and Purple Martins, several Great Egrets, Eastern Kingbirds, a couple of Double-crested Cormorants, and our only Great Blue Heron of the day.
We had approximately 49 species for the trip. See the list below. Best birds are italicized. Also listed are the butterflies and dragonflies we saw.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Blue Heron
and 2 alligators
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Rambur’s forktail orange form female
Great Blue Skimmer