37 intrepid birders braved the hottest weekend of the summer to head to the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge to stand around in the glaring sun with temperatures climbing to 101 degrees and sort through hundreds of itty bitty shorebirds in the mudflats of the refuge. Arriving at the refuge, our first sighting was Joe Neal, David Oakley, and Mitchell Pruitt who were stopped in the road. They were hearing Sedge Wrens, but the birds were a no-show in spite of our best efforts to coax them out in the open.
The main group of birders then headed to the Night-Heron swamp hoping to beat the heat for a sighting of the elusive birds. Only two Black-crowned Night-Herons made a brief appearance, along with a couple of Green Herons. A nice surprise were the two dozen Wood Ducks we flushed.
Back at the mudflats, we sorted through peeps, egrets and herons. Great and Snowy Egrets, and Herons were scattered everywhere in the mud flats and rice fields. The mottled second-year Little Blue Herons were a treat for our newer birders. Two immature White Ibises flew low over the group. The best shorebirds were several Upland Sandpipers, a Black-bellied Plover, Black-necked Stilts, Short and Long-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Plovers, and Wilson’s Snipes. We also picked up Spotted, Solitary, and Semipalmated Sandpipers mixed in with dozens of Yellowlegs, and Least and Pectoral Sandpipers, with a couple of Westerns thrown in. The few non-shorebirds we saw netted a Yellow Warbler, a life bird for one birder. We were also strafed by a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
At noon we gave up and headed home. In spite of the heat, two cars with flat tires, plus one that had to be jumped because a malfunction in the headlights that drained the battery, the field trip was declared a rousing success by all. The Northwest Arkansas contingent, who left Fayetteville at 4:30 a.m., were impressed by the refuge. They were amazed that we considered today a slow shorebird day.
ASCA Field Trip Coordinator