Eureka Nature

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

Monday, March 28, 2005

Action picking up on Migrant Front

It didn't seem like a very promising morning, cold, gray, and windy, but there were lots of birds and lots of kinds of birds. Several species made their first appearances of the year. A really satisfying example were two Black-and-White Warblers, both females, singing a song slightly different than the territorial male's "see-saw,see-saw". There were three at least singing Louisiana Waterthrushes, and the first returning Chipping Sparrow. Large numbers of Juncos were gathering for the jump north.

There were one each of Eastern Towhee and Brown Thrasher, returning migrants. The Towhee was keeping company with a Bewick's Wren, near the area where the wrens had a sucessful nest two years ago, which was investigated by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. I found a singing male in the same area last year, but two good trash washing floods may have destroyed the nest that may have been attempted, food for idle speculation. Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye out for this critter, and hoping for another nest. Most of the ducks are gone, a few Buffs still, and Grebes. On the other hand, there were numerous Wood Ducks, and I found one pair serenely keeping company up the creek at the place where I've found a natural blind that allows viewing of a quiet pool.

New flowers blooming were a Buttercup, and some Phlox. I checked the "Rock Garden" along the Beacham trail as it climbs the far side of the lake, but that North slope wasn't warm enough yet. However, the Trout Lilies had their single leaves up in profusion, tho no blooms that I could find.

Other developments: Talking with Kurtz Miller, the manager of the park, revealed that they had found tracks of a large cat critter, tho they hadn't made a positive distinction between Cougar and Bobcat. He also expressed dismay at the steady spread of the floating vegetation. He thought it was Hydrilla, but Annie Rogers, a retired fisheries biologist resident in Eureka, had presented a specimen for ID to some folks familiar with these things, and they said it was Asian Water Milfoil, a common aquarium plant. Kurtz had done the correct first step by stocking Grass Carp, a vegetarian fish species that can control the invasive growth. What is needed now is physical removal of as much as possible, meaning folks in boats and waders manually hooking and dragging the stuff out of the lake. That seems daunting, but two pieces of good news make it more likely. First, it is possible to lower the lake level to allow better access, and second, he has made preliminary arrangements with folks at the National Forest Work Center who may be able to provide a crew, as well as a Boy Scout Troop that has volunteered for whatever service they maight be reasonably called on to provide.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Birding at Lake Leatherwood with Tulsa Couple

Brandon Scott and Margaret Lee from Tulsa met up with me Sunday morning and we birded for three and a half hours. We had met the day before and the combined list for thr two days was 38 species. They had seen a large flock of Cedar Waxwings on Saturday, absent Sunday. There's a pair of Pine Warblers that may be setting up a nesting territory in the cabin area. We found the first Killdeer of the year and the first Louisiana Waterthrush sang for us once, but we couldn't get a visual though it would have been a lifer for Brandon. They'll be back. The flock of Pied-bill Grebes has grown to around 25 (hard to count a bird that spends half its time under water), but the Buffleheads are fading, now less than ten. There are still some Kinglets of both kinds, and the usual large numbers of Common Grackles are arriving. Beautiful critters, but noisy. I had one pair of Wood Ducks on the creek near the Highway 62 bridge entrance, sothese may be breeding summer residents.

On the vegetation front, there were blooming Bloodroots and meadow micro-flowers. A few butterflies were out, but I don't have an ID yet.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Numbers up at Lake Leatherwood

A great day after what wasn't a very promising start. It was cold, gray and windy, and nothing was singing when I got out of the truck. Still, it seemed worth walking just to have a record for the database. Before long a flock of fifty Robins showed up. Then Cardinals and Juncos joined them. A small flock of Fox Sparrows was digging through the duff in the woods. Woodpeckers started calling, and before too long things had improved considerably. As noon approached, after 3.5 hours of birding, I'd found 40 species, the first time this year to break that mark. Some good birds were a Field Sparrow below the bath-house, a Coot when I thought they were all gone, then twenty Tree Swallows worked their way down the lake. They were taking advantage of the wind, which allowed them to stay virtually still above the weed mats. They would slowly work their way about a hundred yards toward Weems Island, then blow back toward the creek with the wind, and turn around and repeat the slow grazing approach toward the Island. I watched them do this a half dozen times.

Good news on the unusual bird front too. For only the second time, I had a Pine Warbler, two actually mixed in with Yellow-Rumps, which were numerous, maybe 40 or 50. The Pine is a bird I'd expect to see more often at Leatherwood, but even when I've searched out prime habitat, I never find them. A single Greater White-fronted Goose was hanging with the Canadas, the first ever seen on the ground and water. Their flocks have gone over but none ever stopped. Best bird of the day was an American Pipit, the first I've ever seen there, and number 179 for the Lake list. It was working along the edge of the small beach at the swimming area below the bath-house. There was a good variety of woodpeckers, including four Hairys, normally hard to find, and also three separate Brown Creepers. Kinglets were common, especially Golden-crowned.

On the vegetation front, the Spicebushes were setting flowers, smal and not showy, but great little pea-green accents in the still barren woods. A few of the tiny lawn flowers were blooming in the meadows, and an occasional Daffodil lost in the woods.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

New species

I stopped by Lake Leatherwood, hoping to find some Blue-wing Teal, and as I was leaving spotted the first ever Eastern Meadowlark that I've seen there. The meadows aren't quite big enough or open enough to attract them, and regular mowing also makes them less attractive. This bird was seen in the cabin area. This makes 178 species identified at the park.