On this Saturday we went out golfing and brought along cameras and binoculars to do a little birding on the side. Golf courses always seem to be a good spot for birding. This particular golf course is located east of Little Rock near the Arkansas River and surrounded by open wetlands. In the past this location has yielded herons, eagles, larks, and Western Kingbirds.
As soon as we pulled into the parking lot we saw several birds on the power lines overlooking the course and open fields ready for development but still mostly untouched. The usual fare included Eastern Meadowlarks, Dickcissels, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and one of our target birds Western Kingbird.
In Arkansas there are only a few individual Western Kingbirds reported each year and even fewer nests. What we had were two Western Kingbirds hanging around a power line junction on a utility pole. All signs point to nest. We watched them and photographed them for a while in the parking lot.
Throughout the course, a links style (very open-very few trees and lots of varying length grass), we saw hundreds of Dickcissel along with Red-winged Blackbirds, Killdeer, Canada Geese, and Barn Swallows. Among the water hazards we could hear and see Blue Grosbeak, Common Yellowthroat, Green Heron, and Common Grackle. There were some bottomland hardwood around a few tees which yielded White-eyed Vireo, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Tufted Titmice, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Eastern Wood-Pewee. As some golf courses do, this one wound around a neighborhood where we could see urban favorites like Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, and House Sparrow.
The observation that I found most interesting were the hoards of Loggerhead Shrike of all ages. As mentioned before, the layout of the course was basically one large open field with a cedar here and there and several pockets of water. At each tee box there was a lattice covering over the cart path and almost all 18 of them were covered in wisteria. The wisteria was thick enough to support a nest and we saw at least two nests but there could have been at least five more. In one nest there were two parents raising at least four juveniles which were old enough to fly. One of the parents had flown near us on the tee box and a juvenile flew out and followed the parent. The other parent perched on top of the wisteria they called home while three of the kids nagged at its side.
The golfing was terrible but the birding was great.