July 12, 2014
Twenty members of the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas left Little Rock bright and early the morning of July 12 and headed south to Hope. At the McDonald’s in Hope, ten more people joined the trip. While at McDonald’s, our sharp-eyed birders spotted several Great-tailed Grackles patrolling the parking lot. We then caravanned to the AGFC Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc WMA. At the WMA, we found a smorgasbord of birds. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons in all color phases, and Great Blue Herons dotted the lakeside. The east end of the lake housed a good-sized rookery of Cattle Egrets, including additional Snowy and Great Egrets, their fuzzy youngsters, and a Black-crowned Night-Heron. The always raucous Purple and Common Gallinules kept a close eye on their small chicks as the little ones teetered across the tops of the water lotus on their spindly legs and oversized feet.
Anhingas were swimming and soaring, while Double-crested Cormorants fished, then perched in the dead trees to dry themselves in the sunlight. Green Herons were everywhere! The Least Bitterns were calling, but a challenge to see. Several flew back and forth and would only briefly perch out in full view. Life bird for several.
Hundreds of Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Cliff Swallows skimmed the surface of the lake or circled overhead. Mississippi Kites, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, plus a Belted Kingfisher and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird all put in an appearance. Two alligators were seen, one quite close to shore. We were briefly distracted from our bird watching by a swarm of honey bees forming a huge hanging cluster of bees in the tree next to the dock.
It was noon when we left the WMA, and several birders wanted to continue, so we drove to Millwood Lake. Our goal was to find White Ibis and Tricolored Herons. The water level was very high, which left little habitat, so no target birds. We did spot one American White Pelican resting on the lake. At the River Run East spillway, dozens of Snowy and Great Egrets, and a few Great Blue Herons lined both sides of the spillway, and Cliff Swallows swooped above. One enormous alligator lurked in the backwater of the boat ramp, a reinforcement of the “No Swimming” warnings. We called it a day and headed back to Little Rock with a good tally of interesting and showy birds.
ASCA Field Trip Coordinator