Two Trips to Saracen

Within the last week I have been to Lake Saracen (a birding gem of Southeast AR) twice.  Once on 10/15 and again on 10/20.  I accumulated a lot of species on these two days including some newly arrived winter residents, lingering migrants, and a new year bird (234th for the state; 236th overall).  Although it has been much cooler I have seen several butterfly species as well as a few dragonflies/damselflies.

Wednesday, October 15th

I started this expedition a little late (1300).  The wind was atrocious but the temperature was in the upper 70s.  Not only did the wind hinder flight but also vocalizations.  I started out in the southeastern parking lot.  A flock of American White Pelicans had gathered with a few Double-crested Cormorants near this parking lot.  I assume they had found a school of fish in this shallow section of the lake.  I’ve caught several different species of sunfish in this section of the lake; mostly bluegill and redears.  I scared a few of the pelicans and got a couple flight pictures.  When looking at the pictures later I found that one had several bands on its legs.  Behind the flock is an island that contains a few trees and shrubs and a rocky/sandy shore.  Many shorebirds will forage among this shore.  On this occasion a Greater Yellowlegs foraged with Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons.  Between the island and the group of pelicans was a small raft consisting of American Coots, Pied-billed Grebes, and a Blue-winged Teal.

Pair of American White Pelicans

Pair of American White Pelicans

Pelican flock

Pelican flock

Banded American White Pelican in flight

Banded American White Pelican in flight

Double-crested Cormorant female

Double-crested Cormorant female

Although the wind was strong it didn’t halt all flight.  Above the trail I watched an immature Bald Eagle soar with two Turkey Vultures.  A lingering Barn Swallow made a few strafing runs over the reeds of the northeast corner.  An American Kestrel flew over softball fields in search of rodents or possible large Differential Grasshoppers.  Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Meadowlarks flew from fields to reed beds in a laborious effort.  Four Belted Kingfishers flew around the lake in pairs although they were held at a hover when flying directly into a gust.

Bald Eagle immature

Bald Eagle immature

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Differential Grasshoppers

Differential Grasshoppers

 

The wind didn’t keep the bugs at bay either.  Members of the family Libellulidae include a group named gliders.  You’ve probably noticed these hovering en masse over fields or lawns.  They don’t land too often during the day and will follow you as you flush small insects from the grass.  You might think the wind would prevent these gliders from doing their thing but it didn’t.  There were several Wandering Gliders and Black Saddlebags throughout the trail.  The butterflies were out in full force but riding the struggle bus nonetheless.  A purple aster is in bloom and has attracted quite a diversity of butterflies.

Open-winged Gray Hairstreak

Open-winged Gray Hairstreak

Clouded Skipper

Clouded Skipper

Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary

Wind-tossed Pearl Crescent

Wind-tossed Pearl Crescent

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Monday, October 20th

On this day the wind was calm and the temps were in the mid 70s.  I started at around 1100 from the same parking lot.  My pelicans were concentrated in the far northwestern corner of the lake with the cormorants.  Great Egrets were scattered hither and yon.  The island had a couple of Greater Yellowlegs dwarfed by Great Blue Herons.  The small raft of coots had a Blue-winged Teal and a few Pied-billed Grebes.  Small rafts of coots were seen throughout the lake.  An occasional Eared Grebe would be mixed in with a group of coots here and there.  In Arkansas, Eared Grebes are typically migrants.  They usually pass through on their way to the Gulf where they winter.  In any other county, during the winter, you would be most likely to see the similar Horned Grebe on large bodies of water.  Horned Grebes are semi-common winter residents on the AR River and popular lakes such as Lake Dardanelle (technically part of the AR river), Lake Maumelle, Lake Conway and others.  I only have one record of Horned (2012 CBC) in the county while I have multiple records of Eared.  Boyd Point Wastewater Treatment Facility can hold hundreds of Eareds and has become famous statewide for this birding phenomenon.  A few differentiating features (in non-breeding plumage) are the dirty neck and cheek, peaked crown, and slightly upturned bill.  You probably won’t be able to make out any of those features in the following photos.

Eared Grebe with Coot

Eared Grebe with Coot

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe

This time around I focused more on the woodland birds.  This time around you could actually hear vocalizations since the wind was down.  In the first set of woodlands, which is right in front of the parking lot, had a few First of Season (FOS) White-throated Sparrows as well as a Brown Thrasher and Gray Catbird (maybe the Last of Season).  Carolina Wrens and newly arrived Yellow-rumped Warblers flitted here and there while vocalizing.  A Northern Mockingbird sang songs that obscured its identity while cardinals “cheeked” back and forth.

The next set of woodlands held more butterbutts and a few FOS Swamp Sparrows as well as a newly arrived Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  I flushed a few birds from the woods edge and, after much searching, I finally got a glimpse of one.  They were immature Indigo Buntings; probably last of season too.  A Downy Woodpecker gave its contact call while American Goldfinches flew overhead.  Two Barn Swallows were perched on a power line and allowed me to get quite close.

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

From the reeds at the northeast corner of the lake more Swamp Sparrows were heard.  Several Red-winged Blackbirds were heard and seen this time.  Some more yellowlegs flew around these reeds giving their yell of a call.  A conglomeration of litter attracted several starlings and crows.  Both American Crow and Fish Crow were seen.  This was a good juxtaposition of two superficially similar species.  However, there wasn’t as much size difference as I wood have expected.  Without fail, as I was leaving a Belted Kingfisher flew overhead.

Better day for birds than the first but I didn’t get as many insects.  A sign of cooler weather, I suppose.   I did get to see a cutleaf evening primrose (Oenothera laciniata).  This is a common “weed”/wildflower but it is very late.  I haven’t seen one since May.

Cutleaf Evening Primrose

Cutleaf Evening Primrose

 

Dainty Sulphur

Dainty Sulphur

Here are the lists (in no particular order):

  1. American White Pelican
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Great Blue Heron
  4. Great Egret
  5. American Coot
  6. Pied-billed Grebe
  7. Ring-billed Gull
  8. Greater Yellowlegs
  9. Belted Kingfisher
  10. Turkey Vulture
  11. Bald Eagle
  12. Red-winged Blackbird
  13. Eastern Meadowlark
  14. American Kestrel
  15. Barn Swallow
  16. Blue-winged Teal
  17. Fish Crow
  18. Carolina Wren
  19. European Starling
  20. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  21. Northern Cardinal
  22. Brown Thrasher
  23. Blue Jay
  24. Northern Mockingbird
  25. Gray Catbird
  26. American Crow
  27. Eared Grebe
  28. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  29. White-throated Sparrow
  30. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  31. Tufted Titmouse
  32. Downy Woodpecker
  33. Swamp Sparrow
  34. American Goldfinch
  35. Indigo Bunting
  36. Killdeer

 

  1. Rambur’s Forktail
  2. Wandering Glider
  3. Black Saddlebags
  4. Orange Sulphur
  5. Clouded Sulphur
  6. Dainty Sulphur
  7. Little Yellow
  8. Gray Hairstreak
  9. Pearl Crescent
  10. Phaon Crescent
  11. Viceroy
  12. Monarch
  13. Common Buckeye
  14. Painted Lady
  15. Variegated Fritillary
  16. Goatweed Leafwing
  17. Clouded Skipper
  18. Fiery Skipper
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