Every year Lake Maumelle, located northwest of Little Rock, gets a lot of Common Loons. Despite their name, Common Loons are not too common in Arkansas. They favor large, deep bodies of water like lakes and rivers. I’ve only seen them on Lake Dardanelle and Lake Maumelle, in the state. However, they do flock to Lake Maumelle. I’ve seen up to 20 in the same field of view on the lake.
There are series of trails that follow the banks of this lake that range from paved to quite primitive. On Saturday (11/15), a couple of us went out to Bufflehead Bay looking for some of these loons. We started on the trail and flushed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows from bankside shrubs. Besides the lake, the reigning habitat was an upland forest of mostly Post Oak (Quercus stellata) and Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata). At first the trail follows the banks of the bay and in this bay is the Jolly Roger Marina. Near the docked boats were a couple of Buffleheads and a several Pied-billed Grebes. After we passed the bay we heard the first of the yodels. I had never heard a loon yodel. They ceased to yodel around late December and don’t start again until March. We heard two yodel back and forth and saw them at the other side of the bay’s mouth. We watched them through the scope as they swam out into deeper waters. One would go under and come up 15-20 yards farther away. We scanned across the lake and followed the trail around another point. Several more loons were seen on the lake. We watched as a few Bald Eagles soared over the lake and flew fairly close to one of our loons. The loons were not deterred by either the eagles or the many sailboats that littered the lake.
We walked back the trail and stumbled upon a fairly large mixed flock of birds. It was a fairly loose association of birds and could probably be called three smaller sub-flocks. The sparrows continued in the bank side shrubs and were joined by titmice and an Orange-crowned Warbler. There were knee-high legumes growing along the sides of the trails and were filled with Ruby-crowned Kinglets. There were probably 6 or 7 of these kinglets at our feet. Higher in the forest’s story were a couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets. Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Brown Creepers called from the trunks of these trees and were joined by a female Yell0w-bellied Sapsucker. We walked on a little further to find the other sub flock. Chickadees were everywhere. Goldfinches and a Bluebird were congregated, with a few chickadees, in the tops of a couple Sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua). The Sweetgum balls produce tons of little seeds which finches and other seed eating birds love. Two White-breasted Nuthatches foraged in a nearby snag. The bank side thicket stand was expanded at this part and provided even more sparrows including an Eastern Towhee.
We finished the trail happy, with several individuals of our target species seen and a first of season Orange-crowned Warbler.