Eureka Nature

For posting information about natural history events in and around Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Lake Leatherwood Christmas ducks

A brief cold trip to Lake Leatherwood yesterday (Christmas) showed some new ducks arriving before the cold front. There were maybe 20-25 Ring-necked Ducks and about 15 Green-winged Teals to join the Buffleheads and Mallards that had been there. Also a flock of Gadwalls were mixed with the Mallards. The American Coots that had been present for at least six weeks were not re-found. Pied-bill Grebes continued in fair numbers. The woodland birds were few and far between; I guess they were hunkered down under cover out of the wind, chill factor was about 10 degrees.

Friday, December 24, 2004

More Christmas Bird Counts

I participated in the Fort Smith CBC, and also the one located in Russellville, but named for Holla Bend, the National Wildlife Refuge. I spent the day in Fort Smith with Sandy Berger and Ann Gordon. We covered a lot of ground on the east side of town mostly, and were rewarded with 78 species seen or heard. Some of the more notable were a Virginia Rail and a Sora, both secretive marsh critters, not ususally found in the winter this far north. We had a Marsh Wren at the same site. Send an e-mail if you want directions. They all required the use of recordings to get them to call back and then appear briefly.

At Holla Bend I worked with Bill Shepherd, formarly from Arkansas Natural Heritage. We had over sixty species, the most unexpected being a Great Egret and a Palm Warbler (way lost). Other good sightings were a flock of Lapland Longspurs which gave us great long close-up views, and a gang of Bald Eagles at tree-top height screaming like banshees as they swooped toward us, then flared off when they found primates on their playground.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wolves in Nature (WIN)

I found this site while poking around, it seems to have pretty igh quality information for those following the wolf reintroduction projects. Wolves in Nature (WIN)

Harrison CBC

It's Christmas Bird Count season. I took part in the one in Harrison on Wednesday, a chilly windy day. My team, Annie Rogers and I, found 37 species in about seven hours of birding. We were the only team to find Red-breasted Nuthatches in the count circle. For more information on this annual continent-wide effort to document the status of North American Birds check out the National Audubon CBC site.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Birds - Endangered Species

Here's a report on the projected decline in bird species numbers resulting from current trends in global climate change. In a nutshell, 10% of species lost, that's over a thousand, by 2100.

Birds - Endangered Species

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Amphibian decline document

There's a great PDF document from Natureserve, with lots of excellent pictures of curious and beautiful frogs and salamanders etc. We live in a country with very good amphibian diversity, best in the world in fact, and most of it is in the Southeast US. A good read filled with interesting factoids.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Missouri rarity

I travelled to Bagnell Dam, which forms the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, following up a report on the Missouri listserv. I was looking for a Black-legged Kittiwake, a kind of small gull, usually seen off the coast of Washington, and rarely on the East Coast. A lost juvenile. Drove four hours in the rain, sipping Rosco's coffee, and listening to his personal CD. The rain stopped about ten miles from the dam. Good sign. When I got there I was expecting to see some other birders, but not a soul. Bad sign. These critters are usually one day wonders, and this one had already hung on for four days. So I started scanning the sitting gulls, well over a thousand, stretched out over the lake. Back to the truck for a scope, but there were still many out of range. In the tailwaters of the power station were several hundred more flying around scooping up fish damaged by the trip through the turbines, Bald Eagles and Kingfishers as well.

What I was looking for was a collar mark on the necks of the sitting gulls, or an M shaped figure on the wings of the flying birds. After two hours it seemed I'd looked at every one three times, and no luck. Cursing myself for a fool, ("I never get these rarities") an idiot ("I'm really no damn good at birding anyhow") and regretting the lost time and gas money, I finally admitted defeat, got the covers for the scope, and started walking back to the truck as the rain started up again. Out on the lake I noticed one bird acting really acrobatic, flipping and swooping, so took a look through the binocs. Followed it lazily, tiredly, inertially as it crossed the dam. Then just overhead it flipped again, and gave me the perfect M mark, clear as type.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Leatherwod birding report

Spent about three hours doing the weekly bird survey, which is usually Sunday morning, but went early on account of the rain forcast. I usually start at 8 or so, and welcome anyone that wants to come along. Most interesting was the Gray Catbird, still present and calling. It doesn't seem disabled in any way, and flies around the perimeter of the meadow campground overlooking the shallow end of the lake. I reported it to the e-bird facility at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and they sent back an error message saying, "are you sure?" It took some puzzling to figure out how to confirm the report, but now it's in there.

Otherwise the usual suspects, 37 species. Notable were at least ten Purple Finches, and no House Finches. The two species compete for the same niche, and the House, from Europe, generally wins, so that Purples have become uncommon. The winter duck numbers haven't peaked yet, and I expect to see some more kinds become more common as the season progresses. Currently a lot of Pied-bill Grebes, Buffleheads, and Mallards. Lake Leatherwood is a very good place to observe ducks, they become somewhat used to people, are generally close enough to see well, and can be present in large numbers and variety, especially in January when the weather gets very cold and ponds freeze and the big lakes are windswept. When Leatherwood is about half frozen is ideal.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Wilderness Society Resources

I've been grazing at the Wilderness Society website, lots of interesting reports and maps, mostly relating to areas in the big west, but some refer to Eastern Wilderness, and its benefits to the surrounding communities. Reference links are at the bottom of the home page.