Friday, December 20th, was the Pine Bluff Christmas Bird Count. My group was assigned the 4th section of the Pine Bluff circle. This section features several agri fields, tracts of bottomland hardwood forests, human development, sloughs, Atkins Lake, and a section of the Arkansas River.
We started out at the Pines Mall where we picked up Juncos, Turkey Vultures, Mockingbird, and Starlings. We moved to a small lake off of hwy 63 which held nothing but 2 Pied-billed Grebes and a Blue Jay. We moved on to Osborne Rd. and stopped immediately on a bridge over a small creek. Carolina Wrens, Cardinals, White-throated and Song Sparrows called and flitted about among the emergent vegetation on the water. In the nearby fields and topsoil pits were Savannah Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks as well as Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, Cooper’s Hawk and Red-tailed Hawks. On the same road, at a reedy ditch, we called in several Swamp Sparrows and a LeConte’s Sparrow. Song Sparrows and a White-crowned Sparrow were observed without any provocation. Around this time we started observing the flocks of blackbirds overhead. Most of them were Grackles but every now and then there would be a group of Red-wings and a few Rusty Blackbirds. We stopped at a junction with I-530 to observed a flock of Rock Pigeons shortly after.
We got back on Hwy 63 and pulled onto hwy 81 and stopped immediately. We stopped to view what we thought was a flock of Snow Geese. In actuality, it was a large flock of Double-crested Cormorants; flocks that were seen throughout the day. We stopped at a bottomland hardwood area and decided to stay awhile since we were there. We picked up Winter Wrens immediately and heard both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. A Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker were observed among the defoliated willows. Mockingbirds and Robins flew among the trees and thickets. While watching a Downy fly about I viewed two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers foraging together. We moved on from there to nearby fields. The fields yielded more Turkey Vultures and a Black Vulture (missed the BLVU in last year’s count) along with a flock of American Pipits and a Loggerhead Shrike (missed both of those too).
We drove through paper mill land and eventually made it back to hwy 63. We followed 63 until we got to the levee, just before the Arkansas River. We drove onto Corps of Engineers land and viewed several Ring-billed Gulls on the river but nothing else. We drove along the levee with was adjacent to a nice tract of bottomland hardwood. We immediately picked up a couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. We stopped the car and walked down to the woods. On our way down we flushed an Eastern Towhee and a Northern Flicker. Several White-throated Sparrows were among the thickets as well as Winter Wren, Carolina Wren, and 3 Orange-crowned Warblers. American Goldfinches and Cedar Waxwings flew overhead as we hunted a mysterious sound. We believed the sound was a guttural call of a Red-headed Woodpecker. A couple of hawks flew over and flushed a Red-headed out to confirm suspicions. After this we broke for lunch.
After lunch, we headed for Atkins Lake. Our area only contained part of Atkins Lake, and we didn’t have any good access points. So, parked in someone’s yard, we scoped out the lake. We saw a couple of Lesser Scaups, several more Pied-billed Grebes, a couple of Ring-billed Gulls, Great Egrets, and a handful of Hooded Mergansers.
We moved on from the onto hwy 425 and stopped at a grain bin. The bins held corn and the spilled corn was enjoyed by over 100 Eurasian Collared Doves. An adjacent field held close to 100 Savannah Sparrows. We found a partially flooded field down the road and stopped to scope it out. We were lucky to find several dabbling ducks. We found mostly Shovelers, Mallards, and Pintails.
After a quick stop back on Osborne Rd. we picked up a last minute Fox Sparrow and ended our day with 62 species.