On Jan. 4th we went to Lake Maumelle in search of open water birds. A Pacific Loon had been reported here and we were hoping to maybe see it. I came to the realization that although I had packed the tripod, I had forgotten to pack the actual scope. This was somewhat disappointing but since I have a fairly powerful pair of binoculars I figured it wouldn’t be a terrible excursion. On Hwy 10 we found both vultures and a large flock of Grackles.
We pulled into the parking lot and immediately found Buffleheads and Pied-billed Grebes close to shore. When we started on the trail we flushed up several sparrows. Most of them were juncos; identified by white outer tail feathers seen in flight and flight call. Less than 100 yds into the trail was an observation point with a few benches. From here a common loon sat fairly close to shore. It remained emerged and preened. The last time we were on Lake Maumelle (at Bufflehead Bay) we had a hard time seeing a loon that would stay emerged for longer than 5 seconds. I scanned the lake with my binoculars to see that there were several loons throughout this portion of the lake. I could identify several as Common Loons. There may have been a rare loon but it was out of our identifiable range. Large groups of Bonaparte’s Gulls would follow fishermen on boats throughout the lake.
Although we had found one of our target birds, we decided to continue on the trail. This was a great idea because the woodland songbirds were very active. Within a few feet of starting the rest of the trail we happened upon a mixed flock. The habitat was upland mixed pine/cedar-hardwood with a shale bank covered in defoliated buttonbush. The dominate species of this mixed flock were titmice. The titmice foraged in cedars/pines, oaks, snags, fallen logs, gravel banks, and buttonbush (basically everywhere). Golden-crowned Kinglets were the second most abundant bird in the flock. Although they would occasionally wander to the bank, they spent most of their time in the cedars and shortleaf pines. Downy Woodpeckers and Brown Creepers ran up trees and probed snags. Pine Warblers foraged in pines (of course) and on the gravel bank which was somewhat surprising. We only heard one Ruby-crowned Kinglet and never saw it. Chickadees would forage here and there but would be lost in the flock. An Orange-crowned Warbler foraged among the buttonbush and in very little else. Carolina Wrens and a Pileated Woodpecker could be heard in the background. We came to another open area on the banks and scanned the water. Previously overlooked Horned Grebes could be seen better from this vantage point. At our new point we had a good look into a bay where we saw about 6 Common Goldeneyes swimming. Just before we were about to turn around and leave we spot a large bird flying into the bay. I put the binos on it and discover it to be a 1st year Bald Eagle.
We had a great time despite frigid temps and an even colder wind. We got 22 species at the lake and added Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Pileated Woodpecker, and Common Goldneye to the year. 74 is the new year total.