Pre-CBC Birding

December means Christmas Bird Counts.  Gearing up for these, I have been doing some scouting.  I am registered for the Little Rock and Pine Bluff circles so far.  Although scouting areas before the count presents a bias, I think most compilers encourage it.  This past week I went to Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff and Harper Rd/David D. Terry Lock and Dam in Little Rock.  I probably won’t be in any of those areas in the actual count but can provide information to those doing that area.

I was originally drawn to Lake Saracen because of the recent reports of Red-breasted Mergansers there.  In fact, Red-breasted Mergansers have been appearing all over the state of Arkansas in large numbers recently.  I went first in terrible weather.  I didn’t even consider the trail that day.  The rain ranged from heavy to mist and in the few breaks in the deluge I got pictures of a large raft of mergansers.  The lighting was terrible and they were a couple hundred yards off.  They would all dive at once and come up a few seconds later.  They hung out with coots, cormorants and diving Bonaparte’s Gulls.  The pictures showed that they were Red-breasted Mergansers.  This was a second state record for me.

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Red-breasted Merganser raft

Red-breasted Merganser raft

The next time I went to Saracen the weather was a little better but it was overcast and cold.  I took the trail this time and found several sparrows there along with an assortment of other woodland birds including Cardinals, Winter and Carolina Wrens, Flickers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and many others.  The lake contained a lot of birds but the raft of Mergansers were not to be seen.  I checked several of the rafts and found Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads, Gadwalls consorting with cormorants, pelicans, grebes, and coots.  On the banks were egrets and herons.  I flushed a Spotted Sandpiper from the rocky shore.  This was an uncommon, unseasonal one that would be a good addition to the Pine Bluff CBC 2014 list.  The reeds contained Song Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbirds.  I played Virginia Rail and Sora calls to see if any had decided to overwinter as they had last year.  There was no response and I moved on.  The whole time on the trail I watched hundreds of Snow Geese fly over.  I have never had a Snow Goose in my Pine Bluff count.  Last year me and my partner chased a flock that we thought were geese but they disappeared.  While walking back I passed by a White-tailed Deer doe that was only about 15 feet away from the trail.  She seemed unfazed by my presence and let me take a few pics.

Double-crested Cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

I went to the Lock and Dam via Harper Rd. mainly to see if the Inca Doves were still there.  We got started a little late but the weather was nice.  The fields were full of doves, pigeons, and Horned Larks.  We saw at least 7 Kestrels.  A male Northern Harrier flew low over the ground looking for prey (my first of the season).  White-crowned Sparrows sang and called.  Outside of Canada I have never heard a White-crowned sing.  I was equally unfamiliar with their call.  I was a little upset with how unfamiliar I was with such a common bird’s vocalizations but I was glad to hear them.  Farther down Harper we flushed several doves from a roadside puddle.  At least two were Incas but there may have been as many as 6.  The dam yielded little.  There were dozens of Ring-billed Gulls and coots but not much else.  Probably the biggest surprise was the appearance of an Eastern Comma.

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

I am eager to participate in the Christmas Bird Counts and highly recommend them to everyone who’s interested.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s