Eureka Nature

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

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


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