October 20, 2016
A cheerful group of thirteen lucky birders were thrilled to be out birding in the fabulous October weather on ASCA’s Saturday Oct. 22nd field trip. Our first stop was the AGFC Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery located south of Hot Springs on Lake Hamilton. We were greeted by a startling number of approximately 80 Black Vultures sitting around waiting for the day to warm up. Many had their wings spread, taking full advantage of the warm sun in the chilly morning. The pine trees at the hatchery produced an impressive flock of energetic and squeaky Brown-headed Nuthatches. One male was strutting his stuff along the top of a branch with lots of wing-fluttering and cocked tail dancing as his attentive lady friend watched. A Cooper’s Hawk flashed past being chased by a murder of crows. One crow then turned and dive-bombed a Red-winged Blackbird, who then dived into a tree and hid. At the boat launch, we had a leisurely fly-by of a juvenile Bald Eagle, who had an escort of watchful crows. We also spotted a small flock of Pine Warblers, which included two stunning bright yellow males. Sandpipers seen included the always-present Killdeer, plus a small flock of Least Sandpipers.
Our second stop was the Arkadelphia “Oxidation Ponds”, a polite term for sewer ponds. We had high hopes of seeing the two Surf Scoters and the large numbers of ducks that Glen Good had seen on Thursday, which had been pushed in by the cold front. We met Glen and Charles Mills at the entrance gate. Mr. Good reported the Scoters and most of the ducks were gone. What a difference a day makes in the world of birding! However, still hanging around were Shovelers and Gadwalls, a few Ruddy Ducks, some Double-crested Cormorants and Coots, a Little Blue Heron, several Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Pied-billed Grebes. We spotted a small group of female only Blue-winged Teal. Was this a hen party with no males invited? Charles helped us identify the lone Long-billed Dowitcher who flew in with a Lesser Yellowlegs. The group was very excited to see a total of four alligators, which included the BIG dude who owns one of the ponds.
On our way out to I-30 to head home, we stopped at one of the mowed fields to see if the Sandhill Cranes had arrived. No Sandhills, but we did spot a Northern Harrier, more Black Vultures, plus a Merlin, which was a life bird for one member. We also watched one Red-tailed Hawk knocked another Red-tailed Hawk out of the sky and into a tree. Our estimated total species count for the day was approximately 55. Not a bad start for our incoming winter birds. We have lots to anticipate for our winter birding! See you November 19th for our ASCA field trip to Lake DeGray!
ASCA Field Trip Coordinator