Birding with Pine Bluff Friends and Updates from Home

Pine Bluff, south-central AR, has a surprisingly large and often overlooked birding scene.  There are a ton of birding hotspots that yield all sorts of good birds.  There are also a lot of good birders from the area.  One of the more experienced of these birders teaches a birding class at a local rec center.  Throughout the year this group meets a couple times a month and, occasionally, I have had the privilege to join them.  This past Tuesday (12/16) I joined them at Lake Saracen.

Our goal on the day was to get at least 40 species.  We were going to bird from 9am-12pm.  In the parking lot of Saracen we could see American White Pelicans, Ruddy Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, Belted Kingfisher and an unseasonal Greater Yellowlegs.

Ruddy Duck in nonbreeding (basic) plumage

Ruddy Duck in nonbreeding (basic) plumage

We drove around Saracen to different vantage points.  From one vista we saw various rafts of water birds.  The largest raft was a loose association of about 50 Hooded Mergansers, Pelicans, Cormorants, and floating gulls (Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s).

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

A closer, but smaller, raft consisted of Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks and a Horned Grebe.  Turkey Vultures few overhead as did a few Fish Crows.  Mockingbirds, White-throated Sparrows, and Cardinals called from surrounding woods.

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

We hit Boyd Point Wastewater Treatment Facility next.  In the adjacent fields and oxbow lakes we saw Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, Mallards, Kestrels, flock of Grackles, and a flyover flock of Snow Geese.  In the facility premises we mainly got water birds.  Great Egrets lined the ponds and the same two species of gulls flew over them.

Great Egret

Great Egret

On the ponds we found hundreds of ducks, coots, geese, and grebes.  Most of the birds on the water were Shovelers.  Mixed in with the shovelers were coots, Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, Gadwalls, Scaup, a few Canvasbacks, Ruddies, Buffleheads, and Canada Geese.

Bonaparte's Gull basic plumage

Bonaparte’s Gull basic plumage

Lesser Scaup male

Lesser Scaup male

There were a couple of Eared Grebes but they kept mainly to themselves.  On the levee roads were Mourning Doves, American Pipits, and Killdeer.

We went to Regional Park from there.  We passed ponds with Gadwalls and lawns with Killdeer.  We stopped at an edge of bottomland hardwood forest and played an Eastern Screech-Owl call.  This brought in a mob of songbirds and woodpeckers.  Yellow-rumped Warblers led the charge followed by Cardinals, Thrashers, Red-bellied Woodepckers, a Sapsucker, and a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Lake Langhofer was in view and we saw several Pelicans and Ring-billed Gulls on the water.

On the day we got 50 species.

Around the house we’ve been seeing a lot of good birds.  The Red-shouldered Hawks have been out in full force as have the local Hermit Thrush and Phoebes.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Our resident family of Red-headed Woodpeckers are sticking around which doesn’t usually happen.  I usually see them from April to August.  This year I have seen them at least once a month since March.  On the 9th we had about 50 Greater White-fronted Geese flyover.  This was a new species for the yard.  Finally, it wouldn’t be winter without the roving flocks of blackbirds.  Their calls can be close to deafening and their presence in a yard can inspire much awe.

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