Eureka Nature

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

Friday, July 28, 2006

Southbound Migration

It's already happening. The first signs were a Spotted Sandpiper, and the disappearing Orchard Orioles. The spotty was about three weeks ago, and I haven't seen any more, nor any othere shorebirds at Lake Leatherwood, but If someone were to travel to Centerton Fish Hatchery about forty miles west, they would probably find eight to ten species of southbound migrants. Send me a note if you want to make a trip. Another sign is the decline in common warblers. Blue-wings, Louisianas, and Kentuckys have all but disappeared. Many birds disperse after completing nesting. Some also molt, as several folks have asked what was up with their Cardinals, funny gray bald heads. It'll still be awhile before any winter residents show up, but I'm curious when the first southbound ducks will blow in.

This should be the beginning of a great time totake advantage of the new blind. Currently viewing is hampered by the amount of vegetation, lilies and whatnot, tho that can be attractve to the critters as cover. I'm still hoping for some rails to make an appearance, am actually surprised that I've never found one at Leatherwood. Especially given that I had a Sora land in a flower-bed at my house.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Native plants and hummers

Here's an interesting article on Native plants and wildlife, and some reflections on the state of yard plantings to attract birds.

Nature, hummingbird, ecology, bird banding

Friday, July 21, 2006

The White River threatened

Not in our area, but it does involve some of the most important habitat in the state.

The White River - Arkansas Wildlife Federation

Thursday, July 20, 2006

More inverts

I just got an email back from Herschel Rainey, one of our excellent Arkansas Naturalists, and the Author of "Snowmelt Timberdoodles", a collection of natural history essays that I found entrancing. Anyway, I'd sent him some questions about a couple of insects I'd seen at Leatherwood. So, a large dark blue Dragonfly is a Great Blue Skimmer, larger than the very common and paler blue Pondhawk, and a great wasp with no common name, a Pelucinid. This thing is really striking, and at first I'd thought a kind of Dragonfly, but couldn't find anything in the book vaguely like it.

A Tale of two Crows

A number of folks have asked me, "what's wrong with our crows, they sound funny?" Well they sound okay for a species called a Fish Crow, which differs from the usual American Crow that most of us grew up with. So, two species of crows, two differnt calls. The usual "caww, caww" is the American, and the higher pitched rubber-ducky-like "kee-kee" is the Fish. The next question is a vaiation on, why haven't I noticed thembefore, have they always been here? Well, no. They arrived in the last twenty years or so, and have become quite common in the summer. They are migratory, while the American version is here all year. Apparently they, the Fish, started out as a primarily coastal species, specialized for water habitats, and then they started following rivers inland. Up the Mississippi, up the Arkansas and the White, first to Beaver Lake, and then to nearby lakes like Leatherwood, and even more recently, into town. Study the range maps for each of them. They have to be pretty adaptable, and something must alsobe changing in the habitat, but I don't know what that factor is. According to David Sibley, before agricultural settlement crows were adapted to mixes of woodland and openings, which have become far more common as farming has spread, but (I'm guessing) The American crow must be more cold tolerant, ie, better able to find food and shelter in winter, and critically, after ice storms or deep snow events. Possibly a warming climate has favored the fish crows in some way.

When I see them both at Lake Leatherwood, they are usually in separate flocks, or pairs, and aren't often together, tho I haven't witnessed any actual conflict. The Ameicans are slightly larger and sleeker. The Fish crows sometimes give the impression of having bad hair days. Fish Crows also spread the feathers on their necks when they call, unlike the American.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Some local Dragonflies

Here are some dragonfly species that I've seen in the last couple of weeks.

Common Green Darner

Widow Skimmer

Common Whitetail

Eastern Pondhawk

Carolina Saddlebags - I couldn't find a site I liked for this one

Halloween Pennant

There are some others, but I haven't developed an eye for them yet.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Giant Swallowtail Butterflies

I did the bird count on Monday, since they were racing at Lake Leatherwood on Sunday morning. The birds were pretty good, except that I couldn't find a single Kentucky Warbler. There was a Worm-eating. But the big deal was two Giant Swallowtails, which I don't recall seeing there, or anywhere around here before. One down on the overgrown meadows on the Leatherwood trail, and one in the cabin area. For more info, click on the back link below the picture.

Avian flu: Is there an ornithologist in the house?

Here's an interesting take on a current bird type issue from my friend in Duluth. - Avian flu: Is there an ornithologist in the house?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Five local breeders on the Audubon Watchlist

Five species that breed locally have been placed on the Audubon Watchlist, at the less critical level. These birds have population trends that are of concern and are under stress from a variety of factors.

The birds are:

Blue-winged Warbler, a common breeder at Lake Leatherwood, usually found in the meadows along the Leatherwood Trail, and also in the overgrown glade habitat behind the Forestry Office and down the trail behind their dozer parking space.

Kentucky Warbler, one of the common (!) breeders at Lake Leatherwood. I guess we have the perfect habitat. I can usually find half a dozen territories in four hours, probably more if I set my mind (and feet and ears) to it.

Prairie Warbler, which we've had one or two of most years. This past year I've been finding them in a new area, and there seems to be a lot of similar habitat at the Lake. They my actually be thriving there.

Wood Thrush, common at Lake Leatherwood, and very common in town (Eureka Springs, AR) where some of the locals call it the eternity bird, for it's haunting eerie calls in the morning and evening.

Worm-eating Warbler, less commonly seen, but always present during breeding season. I found one last Sunday. Very much a skulker, but I've read in older research that they were one of the most common woodland birds in the Ozarks. Population decline has raised a flag.

Two other species are seen regularly and breed in the area, Prothonatary Warblers, which I've found easier to find around the Houseman Access, and Cerulean Warblers, which we see in migration at Lake Leatherwood, and which are probably breeding there below the Dam, but I don't survey that area regularly. Here's a project for some interested person.

Dickcissels are also on the list, which seemcommon in the flatlands on the way to Fayetteville, and in the Arkansas River Valley, but like most grassland species they are suffering from habitat loss.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Southeastern gecko found in Kansas - Yahoo! News

I learned to love Gecko's in New Orleans, where they lived in my kitchen. They must be here too. Heads up!

Southeastern gecko found in Kansas - Yahoo! News

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sedges Have Edges . . . (Grasses, Sedges & Rushes)

I found this very useful site about grasslike plants. There is a very common rush, a small one and it's often in paths, little clusters of yellowish green. Joe Woolbright, the Nature Conservancy priarie mantenence guy, calls them path rush. They're very resutant to abuse. They grow in my dirt driveway where the tires kill all else.

Sedges Have Edges . . . (Grasses, Sedges & Rushes)

Good luck with skulkers

Between last Sunday and yesterday I've found thre of the little hide in the underbrush warblers. Last week I got an Ovenbird in the thicket along the Leatherwood trail after it splits off Beacham. Then yesterday there was a Common Yellowthroat in the same area. And over by the spring overflow wetland by the maintenence yard I found the first of the year Worm-eating Warbler.

Another interesting find along the Leatherwood trail: in the open area with the light purple mint that's very common, about two feet tall, many Hummingbird Moths. They have transparent wings and thick bodies, and fly about the flowers in a sort of upright position. They do sort of look like hummers, but smaller.

Species numbers were down slightly, but many individuals, especially fledgelings of all kinds. Even a Pileated Woodpecker. And finally I'm seeing Black-and-White Warblers again, which seem much less numerous than previous years. There are more than usual Yellow-throated Vireos, which I guess is a compensation.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fourth of July

My efforts to sell some Bluebird houses made from the leftovers of the cedar deck fencing were pretty much rained out. I still have ten left, so if you want one, leave a phone number in the comments (I won't let it post) or try an email through my profile. The good part was sitting around in the wet and just watching the afternoon activity. Saw a Kingfisher, which was not doing its rattle call. That might explain why I haven't been catching them much lately. But the best news was after the fireworks, when I heard a Chuck-will's-widow calling from across the lake. It's a new species for the Lake Leatherwood list. It now stands at 193 species. Just need few more to make 200, and think that a Great-horned Owl, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a Common Loon shouldn't be too hard. Beyond that I just need some luck.