Report from the August 17, 2013 Field Trip to Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge

Saturday, August 17 a record number of 45 birders descended on the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge in White County.  Four birders had traveled from Memphis to join our group. The cooler than normal temperatures and cloud cover were appreciated by all. Only two ponds were drained, the rest of the refuge was still in rice and soybean fields. We made a quick scan of the ponds, which contained a mix of shorebirds, egrets, and herons. The Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills were a no-show, much to everyone’s disappointment. We decided to take advantage of the cloud cover to briefly abandon the mudflats and drive to the buttonbush swamp to see if any of the Night-herons were still active. Mitchell Pruitt led the caravan of cars and had a flyover of an adult Tricolored Heron. The heron dove into the Bald Cypress trees and refused to show himself to the rest of the group. We did get great looks at several adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night-herons, plus an adult Bald Eagle who did a leisurely fly-by.

Back at the mudflats, we did a more thorough scan of the shorebirds. Best finds were Buff-breasted, Baird’s, and Stilt Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers. There were also a couple dozen Black-necked Stilts, plus plenty of Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green Herons, Great Egrets, and a couple of Snowy Egrets. We also had a Painted Bunting and a Black Tern.

Cindy Franklin and Donna Haynes split from the group to check the east side of Coal Chute Road. They called to report a Tricolored Heron. Our group raced to the spot and arrived just as the Tricolored flew from the drainage ditch to join a Great Egret in another section of the ditch. It flew directly at us before turning towards the egret, giving us awesome looks at its long reddish neck and upperwing coverts, which confirmed it as a juvenile and second bird in addition to Mitchell’s adult Tricolored.

Terry Bulter called to report several hundred shorebirds at Saul’s fish farm.  Several birders were willing to extend the trip into the afternoon with a drive to Prairie Co.  At Saul’s, the best drained pond contained 2 Willets and a Greater Yellowlegs for a good size comparison. There were also Baird’s, Western, and Pectoral Sandpipers, plus more egrets and herons. Perched on the wires above the pond were Bank, Tree, and Barn Swallows.  We ended the day with 42 species at Bald Knob and 19 species at Saul’s.

 

Submitted by

Karen Holliday

Mt. Magazine State Park, June 8, 2013

Thirty-five birders spent Saturday, June 8 rambling around Mt. Magazine State Park enjoying the warm, sunny weather.  Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center where Don Simons, Park Interpreter, oriented us to the park.  Don then led us to the Benefield Picnic Area.  Along the entrance road and in the parking lot, we spotted Eastern Bluebird parents showing their youngsters how to swoop down into the grass to snag tasty bugs.  We also heard and saw Great-crested Flycatchers, Hooded Warblers, Pine Warblers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and Summer Tanagers.  At the Hang Gliding Area, we found our target bird-a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, plus got close looks at a Blue Grosbeak and an Ovenbird.

On the west side of the lodge along the cliff, we found a Black-throated Green Warbler, then were surprised by a Prairie Warbler who popped up out of the honeysuckle.  We also found a Rufous-crowned Sparrow skulking in the juniper bushes, plus a second one singing further along the path.  A brilliant male Scarlet Tanager flashed past, eliciting gasps of delight from the group.

Following lunch, we caravanned to the Brown Springs Trail, where we were joined by our final birder of the day, Lori Spencer, Arkansas’s best-known butterfly expert.  Lori identified and educated us about the numerous plants along the trail and the butterflies nectaring on many of those plants.  Lori also entertained us with stories of how she met Don and their joint work on their “Arkansas Butterflies and Moths” book.  Returning along the trail, we stopped to watch a male Scarlet Tanager signing in the top of a bare tree, plus listened and watched two singing Wood Thrushes in the undergrowth, and heard more Ovenbirds.  We ended the day with a total of thirty-six birders, thirty-three species of birds, and eighteen species of butterflies.

Submitted by

Karen Holliday