Field Trip Report: Craighead Forest Park & AGFC Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center April 21, 2018

On Saturday, April 21 the weather was mostly sunny, mid-60’s temperatures, and very little wind after the first half hour of the trip.  23 birders congregated at the softball field at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro at 8:15 a.m.  Hats off to all the “Bird Nuts” who showed up because they left Little Rock at 6:00 a.m. to make the two-hour drive.  First birds were a soaring Broad-winged Hawk, plus 62 DC Cormorants flying overhead in a V formation. Birds seen on the loop around the edge of the softball field were Pine Warblers, Swainson’s Thrush, Carolina Wrens, and Chipping Sparrows.

Working our way towards the lake, a group of birds kept flushing in front of us. It was a nice mix of Blue Grosbeaks, Palm Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Indigo Buntings, and Cardinals.  On the path through the wooded areas, we were very excited to see a Cerulean Warbler, life or state bird for many, two Blackburnian Warblers, and a Scarlet Tanager!  We also had more Swainson’s Thrushes, a Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireos, Nashville Warblers, Summer Tanagers, and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

We then headed to the Game & Fish Commission’s Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center. It was almost noon so the birds had slowed down but we did get our FOS Blue-winged Warbler and Eastern Kingbird, plus several butterflies, including Monarch’s, working the butterfly gardens.

On our way back to Little Rock, the group stopped at the Bald Knob NWR Refuge.  Great decision because our first bird was a White-faced Ibis in gorgeous high breeding plumage feeding only 25 feet from the road!  We then stopped at the grain bins to scan the huge blackbird flock hoping for Yellow-headed Blackbird.  Sarah Morris pulled up and said thank goodness we were birders because she was pretty positive she had just seen two.  We jumped out of our cars and sure enough there were two stunning male YHBB’s!  Life and state bird for most. On the back side of the Refuge we had an adult Bald Eagle, plus a momma Hooded Merganser and her six adorable tiny babies swimming in one of the flooded ditches.  Last stop on the way out was at the marshy creek on Coal Chute Rd. near the entrance to the Refuge.  A male Wood Duck and two Green Herons were perched on the fallen logs in the creek.  In the reeds was a singing Marsh Wren.  Then, out of the reeds walked an American Bittern.  He stood still long enough for everyone to get great looks through the scope.  Life and or state bird for many.  Spectacular end to a long day!  Species total for Craighead Forest and the Nature Center was 54.  Bald Knob was 27.

Karen Holliday

ASCA Field Trip Coordinator