Eureka Nature

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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Black and White Warblers

Heard the first ones today, going seesaw seesaw seesaw. Link Look forthem in the interior of the trees crown, they specialize in bug piscking from the bark of the larger limbs and trunk.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Early Wildflowers

While chasing birds this past weekend, I also noted

Purple and Yellow Violets
Trout Lilies
Trillium in buds
Wild Geranium

All seemed at the beginning of their cycle of blooming, so the show will get better for these species for several weeks.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Migrants arriving

The first Louisiana Waterthrush was singing at Lake Leatherwood last weekend. Tuesday I found a Brown Thrasher. I had a phone conversation about a Yellow-throated Warbler Sighting. And there are Grackles and Red-wings aplenty.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Schedule for Bird Week of Arts Festival

MAY 13 International Migratory Bird Day - FREE public bird hike
Dedication of the Bird Viewing Blind at Lake Leatherwood

MAY 15-21 Bird Week

Presentation by Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Team The Auditorium

How To Bird Watch Arkansas Game & Fish Commission The Auditorium

Workshop by Wild Bird Store


May 20
9:00pm PeepShow The Auditorium

Gallery Walks, Music on Spring & in Basin Park

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Blind site getting inspections

Bruce Levine came out to look at the Bird Blind site Tuesday morning. He was pleased with the way it integrated into the landscape. Someone un-named had been a little too vigorous with a brush hog, and had cut some good habitat. It looks like most of it will regenerate in a few years if left alone. What I did in siting the blind was to take advantage of some of the overcut area. If I had been forced to plan it with cutting in mind, I'd have been hesitant, but serendipity sort of laid the opportunity in my lap. At this point all I need from the Parks Commission is a passed motion to accept the site and design, and permit the completion of the project. Then I had another call Wed evening from Draxie Rogers, a commissioner with a wheelchair-bound relative, also enthusiastic.

Right now we're finally getting some rain, but the drought outlook is still bad. I did find a good website for drought information here. It's interesting to look at all the maps of different ways to think about drought. For instance, we've not had hardly any rain, but soil moisture is still not terribly bad. Hence the pastures are greening up with the longer days. How long they'll be able to sustain growth is another matter. I've also been watching the daffodil meter. Some places they're blooming vigorously, but in a lot of others all I'm seeing is some wimpy spindly leaves, not even buds. If this current rain amounts to anything, maybe those will catch fire.

I've also been working with Joyce Zeller of the spa shop to get an article ready for publication. Today she asked me about a website or link, and I had none. I checked with CAPC and they have the festival flier online, but it's not set up currently for searching and linking. So this weekend I'm getting with my friend Shiloh Barnat, in Memphis, and we're gonna create a website. I'll keep you posted on that.

1.75 inches HOOO RAH

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Early Migrants and birders at Leatherwood and Beaver Lake

I went out to Lake Leatherwood a day early since it may be raining Sunday morning, and I wanted to check if the flagging for the blind was still OK. Great luck was upon me in several ways. First was finding Tree Swallows flying around, eight when I arrived had incresed to about twenty by the time we left. They're the Morpho butterflies of the North American birds, the males having irridescent blue backs. No females in this flock, the early arrivers probably going on to stake out territories as they arrive on the breeding grounds. I have usually had one or two pairs nesting at Leatherwood, so obviously most of these birds are passing through.

The second piece of luck was that Joe Neal, co-author of "The Birds of Arkansas", now the Forest Service Red-cockaded Woodpecker recovery spark-plug for Arkansas, showed up with two of his friends, Paige Mulhollan and wife Mary Bess. I had been trying to bird around Leatherwood with Joe for several years, and although we kept talking and promising, it hasn't happened until today. The Mulhollans have recently moved back to Fayetteville after years around the east, and Joe has been showing them the local hotspots.

The third piece of luck is that Paige works with the Northwest Audubon chapter of National Audubon, and they are one of the orgnizations that I've had in mind to approach for funding help with the bird blind. So rather than twisting arms and begging for someone to come over and check out the site, good fortune had delivered a perfect inspector, and Joe had his camera. Voila! And we had some great birding too, several more first of year (FOY) birds, including an Eastern Towhee, a Common Grackle, a Fish Crow,and five Wood Ducks. In all about 35 species in two hours, and that was missing some usual suspects.

We drove over to Beaver Dam, hoping to find some Loons, or other less common waterfowl. For some reason Beaver Lake isn't really very good for birding, certainly not the way that some other big area lakes are, for instance Tenkiller Lake just into (2 hours or so) Oklahoma. We did find a nice flock of Common Goldeneyes and some other species we had missed at Leatherwood.

One of the best things about the day was the sparrows. We found four Savannah Sparrows at Beaver, and at Leatherwood we had White-throats, Swamps, Songs, and a single Fox Sparrow, as well as numerous Juncos. Joe loves sparrows, which are challenging ID problems for beginning birders. Turns out that when you learn how to see them, they don't all look the same.

I got to try out my new mp3 player setup for calling birds, the whole rig fits in a jacket pocket, and it seemed to work well, certainly sucked some wrens and thrushes out of the brush. I'm still a mite slow finding the right song, but that should improve with some practice. I spent maybe twelve hours over the last ten days getting my recordings on CDs switched over to the more compact format, which included a lot of editing and relabelling the information that identifies the tracks. And speaking of recordings, Joe said he thought Leatherwood might be a good place for recording natural sounds, since there are times with very little ambient artificial noise, vehicles and such. Much better than the places available in the Fayetteville area

Friday, March 03, 2006

Black Bass Lake

Thursday I went to Black Bass Lake to see what was flying around. I have joined the Trails advisory committee, and one of the current projects is a set of trails around this sweet little lake. Figured I might as well start a bird list too. On the initial hike there I found the first Wilson's Snipe I've ever seen in Carroll County, which I figured for a good omen indeed. I've often thought they should be at Leatherwood, but have had no luck there finding them.

A sure sign of spring was a pair of Wood Ducks, the first of the year. I haven't even seen them mentioned on the Arkansas birder alert system, ARbird, a listserv. There have been notices of Woodcocks, and I saw one on Monday in Fayetteville. I see them very occasionally at Leatherwood, but have never seen them sky dancing there. I need to hang around some evening soon, just at dark, and see if they do their ceremony on the edge of the inlet woods.

The last couple of days were warm enough the bring out a couple of butterflies too. I found one Mourning Cloak, splendid in its gold rimmed velvet black, and another smaller orange critter, with scalloped wings. I don't recall its name, but know that it's something that overwinters as an adult, and can be found on any warm day in early spring. I need to ask Lori Spencer, the Arkansas Butterfly expert, for the name again.

Another great sign is the increase in birdsong. Cardinals are staking out territories, and proclaiming ownership. Their breeding frenzy still hasn't reached full throttle though, and most are still foraging in mixed flocks of male and female, but I'm seeing more aggression, more edginess in their behavior, less tolerance for the close approach of another individual of the same sex at feeders etc. The Pine Warblers are trilling from the tops of the groves on the ridges, and Eureka is blessed with numerous places where you can hear them. They can be hard to spot, but it's worth the effort. The yellow isn't the bright lemon of the Goldfinches (which are beginning to molt into breeding colors) but rather the color of burnished old gold or polished brass. Add a nice eye-ring and wing bars and you have a fancy bit of small glory. A little later in the year, you can find them on the very tips of the pine limbs, digging caterpillars out of the growing needle tufts. The insects are drawn to the fresh vegetation, which doesn't have its full array of defensive chemicals in place. Fresh spring salad.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Bird Blind gets proposed

This is the first notice I sent to the Parks Commission regarding my bird blind fantasy in conjunction with the May Fine Arts Festival.

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You may already know that the primary theme of the 2006 May Fine Arts Festival will be birds and bird art. We would like to offer some other activities related to those themes. These would include

1) Guided bird hikes at Lake Leatherwood
2) Guest lecturers speaking on a variety of topics
3) Bird oriented art tutorials, for instance about writing, drawing, photography etc
4) Free public educational activities in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Day
5) Other trips to local birding hot spots
6) Other ideas welcome

The idea of course is to attract more folks to town for the Fine Arts Festival, to increase public awareness of our avian friends, and raise community and visitor awareness of the park's facilities and recreational opportunities. The Park at Lake Leatherwood is an ideal venue for many of these activities. We believe we could enhance its attractiveness by constructing a permanent Bird Viewing Blind, designed to be handicapped accessible. Basically this is a raised platform overlooking some select portion of the lake, with a wheelchair ramp, some seating, and an approximately seven foot wall with viewing ports at various heights. The wall is to block the sight of the viewers from the critters being observed to minimize their tendency to be alarmed by human intrusions. The style would be simple and rugged basic pressure treated deck construction, on an adequate pole and concrete foundation.

At the next meeting I should have a detailed plan for the facility, and a proposed site layout. The Parks Department would not provide any money or labor for the construction, unless they choose to participate. Funding will be from private sources and some yet-to-be-nailed-down city budget items. Most of the labor will be donated gratis. Mostly by me I suspect. More information on that aspect will be available with the detailed proposal. The total value of the project will be $ 4-6,000, depending on the final design and the variable cost of materials. Landscaping is primarily benign neglect, ie. the more natural it looks, the more effectively it works.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have of a general nature. We can get into details and specifics when I have the preliminary drawings made up and presented.

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Additional information

One of the goals of the project and its associated activities is to attract more birders to Eureka. We have a lot of art and history which are things they often also care about, so it's a multifaceted attraction. Kind of encourage some eco-tourism. It surprises me that less attention has been paid to that part of the tourist market by the local boosters. CAPC has been offering a bird hike (with me) as an option in their givaway prize weekends, and the folks who have tried it have all said it was the high point of the trip. Another thing that could be promoted is the magnificent spring wildflower bloom. There are some natural rock-gardens at Leatherwood that are simply knock-out. It's also excellent for buterflies ad dragonflies, and I'm trying to build ome ID skils for those critters. I'd love to hook up with someone local who is skilled in that area

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What I need that I know of now (this will get longer)

1) Some source of native river cane to use for disguising the approach.
2) Info from anyone who may know about resources to help with the handicapped accesible aspect.
3) Contributions of materials, basic pressure treated wood, concrete mix, the sort of things that go into an ordinary deck.

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I gave them the drawing on Feb 21, and we talked about it. They had some suggestions that I put into a revised plan, which is now flagged out at the park waiting a go-ahead so I can get the building permit. The site is in the brushy area along the lake at the end of the little meadow (where the Beacham Trail starts) that is nearer the Bath-House. The long narrow section is the wheelchair loading pad and ramp, and the blind proper is the two square areas deepest in the brush.