Lorance Creek and Willow Beach 1/2-1/3/14

After going to Lake Saracen, in Pine Bluff, on day 1, I traveled to Little Rock favorites:  Lorance Creek and Willow Beach Park, on days 2 and 3.

Lorance Creek

I got started at Lorance later in the morning than I would have hoped.  The wind was absolutely atrocious and I was afraid that I wouldn’t get any birds at all.  After getting 59 species on the first day (some of them being uncommon:  Virginia Rail)  I had wide open list of possible “First of Year” (FOY) birds.  Driving in to the area I picked up Turkey and Black Vultures in a ditch, on Bingham Rd.  Cardinals and Starlings were found in lawns leading up to the trail.

The parking lot yielded little besides the ever present American Crow.  However, once in the woods the effects of the wind were not as harsh and the bird observations became more frequent.  The first part of the trail is dominated by pine (I think a mix of shortleaf and loblolly) and I heard a few Brown-headed Nuthatches (a quasi-pine specialist) as well as Carolina Wrens (in the thin understory).  As the trail progresses, the forest becomes more dominated by hardwoods:  several species of oaks, black hickory, and red maples.  The midstory becomes more diverse, filled with younger red maples and ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana).  The understory stays fairly thin in this part but becomes more diverse;  an occasional blackberry thicket can be found.  Brown Creepers gave their high-pitched, ringing calls from this mixed forest and I watched a couple of them spiral up the trunks of trees.  Golden-crowned Kinglets called “see-see-see” from the midstory and an occasional Titmouse could be heard.  After the mixed forest, the paved trail becomes a boardwalk as it ventures out into a cypress-tupelo swamp.  The understory is fairly dense and diverse here; dominated by smooth alder (Alnus serrulata) and sweetspire (Itea virginica).  Just before the water is a dense thicket of brier and blackberries and here I found several Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows.  Bluebirds flew among the trees and an Orange-crowned Warbler called from the thicket.  I journeyed onto the boardwalk and heard the Downy and Red-bellied Woodpecker but no other woodpeckers.  A Ruby-crowned Kinglet gave a rattling call while a Winter Wren gave its “tewp-tewp” call.  Walking back I saw several Pine Warblers foraging on the ground in pine needle litter.  Two White-breasted Nuthatches seemed to follow me back to my car.  Overall I saw about 23 species and added Brown-headed Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, and Orange-crowned Warbler.  These plus 3 I saw at home that day (Cooper’s Hawk, American Robin and Rusty Blackbird) made 66.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Willow Beach

On Jan. 3rd I ventured to Willow Beach Park by way of Faulkner Lake Rd. and the Caterpillar plant there.  I stopped at the plant to look for Cackling Geese which were a no show, but I did see several Hooded Mergansers on the pond (FOY).

Another detour led me to a duck pond off of England Rd. (a detour I usually take) and I picked up Lesser Scaup, Northern Shovler, Gadwall, Ruddy Ducks and several Canada Geese.  Further on down from the pond, I came across a few partially flooded (completely frozen) ponds were a Red-tailed Hawk kept patrol.  Despite the presence of this raptor I still managed to see a few Killdeer, a completely motionless Wilson’s Snipe, and several “skating” American Pipits.

On route to the actual park I saw flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Meadowlarks in fields accompanied by a small number of Savannah Sparrows.  The power lines held Kestrels and a Loggerhead Shrike.  Once in the park, little was observed.  A Rusty Blackbird posed for pictures next to a pond with Cardinals and Robins.  From that same pond I scared up a Great Blue Heron.  On the river were only a handful of Pied-billed Grebes with an occasional flyover of Double-crested Cormorants.

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

The collective total for the third was 46.  FOY include:  Cedar Waxwing (home), Hooded Merganser (CAT plant),  Lesser Scaup, Northern Shoveler, American Pipit, Wilson’s Snipe (duck pond area), Savannah Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike (fields).   This puts the year total at 74.  My goal for the year is 245.  Last year I got 219.

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