ASCA Field Trip Report-Bald Knob

Today’s great weather made it an absolutely perfect day to be out chasing birds.  Sun, warm temperatures, and very little wind fired up the thirty enthusiastic birders with spring fever.  The first stop at the Coal Chute Road entrance into the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Important Bird Area (IBA) was a doozy. We found at least 400 Rusty Blackbirds frantically flipping leaves and splashing everywhere in the flooded, recently burned hardwood tract.  Lots of very noisy Common Grackles were also mixed in with the Rusties. Encouraging to find such a large a group of Rusties in light of their severe decline in population.  Walking down the road away from the blackbird cacophony into the more open areas, we heard and saw Field, Swamp, Lincoln’s, and Savannah Sparrows.

Back in the cars, we drove to the first muddy field, which also had areas of deeper water.   The water was full of dabbling ducks.  Throughout the morning, we found the same mix of ducks in each flooded area of the Refuge.  Northern Shovelers were the most abundant.  Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, and Gadwalls were next with very high numbers.  Throw in a few Ruddy Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, and a couple of Northern Pintails and they accounted for the other ducks seen at each stop.  American Coots were everywhere; in the water, sleeping on the levees, and sitting in the road.

Shorebirds were scattered around the Refuge in fairly decent numbers. Low numbers are not  surprising since this is the beginning of their migration.  Everyone was very excited to see the American Golden-Plovers. The eight Plovers were either First of the Season (FOS) or life birds for most.  Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs were seen and heard.  Long-billed Dowitchers, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson’s Snipe rounded out the Sandpiper list.  No trip would be complete without a plethora of Killdeer and we found plenty of them.

Everyone gets excited about raptors and our group was no exception.  We watched a juvenile Bald Eagle (BAEA) methodically hunt one of the flooded fields, flushing both ducks and shorebirds. It missed them all. The second juvenile BAEA also failed to catch anything edible.  A third BAEA was seen by a small group of birders who spotted it further south into the Refuge.  They also heard and saw a dueling pair of Barred Owls who vocalized back and forth. Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk rounded out the raptor list. A nice treat was a flyover of 45 American White Pelicans. Several Tree Swallows and a Purple Martin put in an appearance.  No trip is complete unless we see Great Blue Herons, our lucky mascot bird.  We saw a total of nine GBHE, plus four Great Egrets.  Our next field trip to Bald Knob is in August.  Can’t wait to see what fabulous birds this treasure of a National Refuge will produce for that trip. Come join us!
Karen Holliday
ASCA Field Trip Coordinator
Maumelle/Little Rock