Lonoke County Field Trip

October 27, 2018

Saturday was the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas’s (ASCA) field trip.  What an interesting day it was!  This will be long because I want to include the interesting progression of chance encounters we had that morning.  Our field trip was a birding loop of Lonoke County.  We started at the Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery in Lonoke, east of Little Rock.  33 birders met at the hatchery. The Hatchery manager had advised that AGFC has implemented strict rules forbidding any non-AGFC vehicles from driving inside any state hatchery.  We honored that restriction and walked around the ponds on the west side of the Hatchery.  Not many ducks have arrived yet.  We had Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Belted Kingfishers, a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks who flew in and then immediately left, a couple of American Pipits, three Pied-billed Grebes, and a Gadwall. Groups of Greater White-fronted Geese flew over. The UCA students were counting bird species for their course work and were also quite intrigued with the turtles and colorful frogs we saw.

We left the Hatchery and made a quick stop at the Community Center for a bathroom break.  A jogger saw our large group and asked what we were doing. Told that we were on a birding field trip, he said he had a duck hunting lodge just down the road and we were welcome to go see the big groups of ducks and geese he had coming to his property.  We left the Community Center and first made a quick run into Lonoke to the Exxon gas station to look for the BH and RB Nuthatches previously reported at that location. Due the large number of vehicles, we had to park next door in the Dairy Bar parking lot.  As we walked toward the pine trees, the Dairy Bar owner called from her ordering window and asked why this big group of people with binoculars was walking past her restaurant, which she said was kind of scary.  We explained our field trip and reassured her we had no nefarious intentions.  Plus, I suggested we might come back for lunch, which she thought was a terrific idea. 

Next, we headed to the duck lodge.  The jogger had given good directions, but we still overshot the turn into his property, went on past, then turned around and headed back.  Some of the group pulled off on the opposite side of the highway to turn around and ran into another duck hunting lodge owner across from Anderson’s Fish Farms.  He wanted to show us his property and all his ducks. That group called our group, who were now at the Lone Oak Duck Lodge, and said we should come meet the owner of the Bayou Meto Double D Hunting Lodge, plus see the six AVOCETS in the first pond.  The Double D owner took us to a small flooded reservoir and explained how he manages his 1,300 acres for wildlife and waterfowl.  He said we were welcome any time except during duck and deer hunting season.  He said for overnight stays both lodges can handle large groups and can provide lots of wildlife viewing options.  It was nice to meet duck hunters who actually like birders and recognize our financial benefit to the local economy.  At the reservoir, we had mixed groups of incoming ducks including Green-winged Teal, Shovelers, Gadwalls, and Mallards, plus a juvenile and adult Bald Eagle, and a Cooper’s Hawk.

If we hadn’t stopped at the Community Center for our bathroom break, we wouldn’t have met the jogger who owned the Lone Oak Lodge.  If we hadn’t missed the turn into his lodge, we wouldn’t have met the owner of the Double D Lodge, and we would have missed the opportunity to interact with local residents and learn of potential future birding sites. We did go back to the Dairy Bar for lunch.  The food was excellent, service was fast, and with the great weather, we thoroughly enjoyed eating our lunch at their outdoor picnic tables. 

After lunch we headed to Bob Long Road off Hwy. 31.  No ducks on the minnow ponds until the last ponds just before the bridge and wooded area.  We hit the jackpot with the south side pond.  Best bird was a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER. Other birds were Redheads, Canvasbacks, American Wigeon, Pintails, Ruddy Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Gadwalls, Mallards, and a Coot. One AVOCET was in the neighboring pond.  Flying over were an Osprey, a Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawks, a DC Cormorant, flocks of American White Pelicans, and Greater White-fronted and Snow Geese.  A very large group of over 100 Great Egrets were settling into the far trees to roost for the night.

 We finished around 6:00 p.m. with 63 species. A very long day, but filled with lots of fun adventures with a great group of bird lovers.
Karen Holliday

ASCA Field Trip Leader