End of 2013 and Beginning of 2014–Lake Saracen

I ended the year with a total of 229 species; 219 of them being in Arkansas.  I spent time birding in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

One of my last outings of 2013 was at Lake Saracen and my first outing of 2014 was Lake Saracen.  I will consider both outings as one; although much more species were seen on Jan. 1st.

From the parking lot large groups of American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants can be seen throughout the lake.  Scattered throughout the lake are Pied-billed Grebes.  An island sits near the southeastern corner of the lake; close to the parking lot and trail head.  In the water between the parking lot and the island features many of the aforementioned species and some American Coots and a handful of diving ducks such as Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks.  Gadwalls are the lone dabbling representative.  Grazing Canada Geese browse on the banks of the island.  A Great Blue Heron and Great Egret forage among the emergent vegetation the island offers.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

As I start the trail I have an immediate lot of wet, bottomland hardwood, opposite the lake.  From this lot come the sounds of foraging sparrows such as White-throats and Fox.  Goldfinches and Yellow-rumped Warblers fly about the willows and cottonwoods.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets give their chattering call from among a tangle of Japanese honeysuckle.  Northern Flickers call from atop snags and can form sizable flocks at this location.  Cardinals join the sparrows in their rummaging.  A Carolina Wren hollers from deeper within as another gives an insect like buzz to form only a quasi-tonal duet.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

On the lakeside, a power line runs above the bank.  This is a great hunting perch for Belted Kingfishers and Eastern Bluebirds.  An occasional Starling rests upon the line as well.  Below the lines, the rocky shore features sparse reed beds and buttonbush.  In this vegetation, Song Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbirds forage.  Over the lake, Ring-billed Gulls and Bonaparte’s Gulls soar.

Further down the trail, there is an open field with scattered puddles.  Here is the Killdeer’s domain.  They run back and forth and occasionally fly making “da-dee da-dee da-dee” calls.  Overhead, here and throughout the trail, cormorants fly to and from the lake in loose V formation.  American Robins fly from wood lot to wood lot and Grackles gather around low, wet areas.

The open field turns into a marsh, littered with snags.  Here is the largest concentration of flickers and yellow-rumps.  A House Wren calls from nearby brush and happily responds to playback.  Unfortunately, it never stops moving and is very difficult to photograph.  This marsh turns into a larger tract of bottomland hardwood with a dense privet edge.  More kinglets sound off from the privet.  Mockingbirds and Cardinals dart into the privet for cover as we approach.  A Winter Wren calls from among the woods, as do Chickadees and Titmice.  A Red-shouldered Hawk calls from beyond the woods.

On the other side, the banks grow thicker with reeds.  The widest the reeds get is about 20 yds into the lake.  This provides great habitat for Swamp Sparrows and Song Sparrows.  Both respond eagerly to playback.  A grunting call prompts me to play a Virginia Rail call which sparks 3 or 4 to grunting.  These are a very uncommon winter resident in Arkansas.  Sitting, calling, and waiting provides only a glimpse of one but does allow for good audio recording for documentation.  As we near the end of the leg, we hear both American and Fish Crows.  Red-wings, Great Blue Herons, and Coots hide within the reeds and are flushed out when we passed.

At the end of the first leg (only walked this far) we reach open ball fields bordering agricultural fields.  A lone Eastern Meadowlark calls from the ball fields along with dozens of Starlings.  They quiet down while a Red-tailed Hawk flies by, shortly followed by an American Kestrel.  Soarers over the lake and fields include Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures, and a first-year Bald Eagle.  A creek runs in between the lake and the fields.  Along this creek are several reed beds.  Song sparrows call incessantly up and down the creek and a Marsh Wren works its way among the reeds.

We turn around to walk back and pick up a few common birds we missed on the way back like a Downy Woodpecker.

All in all we got 50 species combined.

2 female and 1 male Bufflehead

2 female and 1 male Bufflehead

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