CBC’s, Christmas, and New Year Birding

The end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 has seen its share of family, friends, and illnesses.  Consequently, we have become a little behind on the posting.  This post will just be a summary of several events.

CBC’s

During the winter of ’14-’15 I participated in two Christmas bird counts around Arkansas: the Little Rock CBC (December 20th) and the Pine Bluff CBC (December 29th).  In the Little Rock CBC I was assigned to Area 1 with three other local birders.  This area covered the southernmost area of Little Rock’s circle.  We had birding hotspots such as Gillam Park, Little Rock Audubon Center, Fourche Creek, and a few city parks.  We birded from 645 am until 145 pm and tallied 56 different species of birds.  We spent the majority of our time in Gillam Park which was a derelict city park that was given to the Audubon Society.  The birds of the day were probably a small raft of Hooded Mergansers that we flushed from a small pond adjacent to a landfill.

On the Pine Bluff CBC my group was given Area 7 which is the western most area of the Pine Bluff circle.  This area also included parts of White Hall.  Several childhood homes and my church is in this area so I was very familiar with it.  However, I had never seen many birds in this area and had my doubts in doing it as part of the CBC.  We birding the church property, a Confederate Cemetery, several neighborhood ponds and burrow pit ponds.  We birded from 635 am until 435 pm and tallied 63 species.  One of the members of the group hosted three Inca Doves at his feeders which was in our area so we counted those although most of the group didn’t see them.  That was our best bird and was one of the rarer birds probably in the state cumulative of CBC’s.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Christmas Day Birding

Christmas day was the first day in a while that some of the writers had been on a bird outing.  We went to Harper Rd and David D. Terry Lock & Dam.  One of our first birds was an apprehensive Barred Owl that moved about in a stand of tall pines.  Along the road we flushed up several species of sparrows including Savannah, Fox, White-throat, White-crowned, and Song.  We had a flock of Snow Geese fly over us at a field.  We stopped at a ditch and watched the sparrows.  While walking back to our vehicle we flushed a Wilson’s Snipe and heard it give its agitated, harsh “snipe” call.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

We got to the Dam and found some Mallards, Lesser Scaup, and Gadwalls in a small pond near the river.  Near the dam we had Ring-billed Gulls, Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets.  Just outside of the park we had a Northern Harrier patrolling fields.

New Year Birding

Last year I had set the goal of seeing 245 species in AR.  Although I fell short of the goal by 10 species, I still recorded more species than ever last year.  I will keep the same goal for this year.

My new year tradition is to start the year at Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff.  This year I got there and recorded 55 species.  During this outing I got 4 species of Wren (House, Winter, Carolina, and Marsh) which ties a personal best.  I saw a couple of species of waterfowl, fewer than I would have imagined: Canada Goose, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, and Ruddy Duck.  I did get 3 species of grebe: Pied-billed, Horned, and Eared.  Pied-billed were scattered throughout the lake.  The Horned were foraging among groups of Ruddies but the lone Eared stayed close to the bank and only moved away from it when I approached.  I watched a mole (Talpus aquaticus) excavate a hole which was very fascinating and saw a Cooper’s Hawk on the ground nearby.  The hawk may have been even more interested in the mole than I was.  I did get to see 3 species of overwintering shorebirds: Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, and Wilson’s Snipe.  The snipe were expected and its not too uncommon to see overwintering yellowlegs on the lake.  The spotted sandpiper was odd and was flagged as uncommon-rare on eBird when I submitted it.

Spotted Sandpiper through binocs

Spotted Sandpiper through binocs

The best scene of the day was a conflict between a Great Blue Heron and a few Pelicans.  The heron caught a large fish (maybe a bass or a bowfin) and was struggling with it.  The pelicans noticed it and flew over at the heron.  The heron dropped the fish and ran.  The first pelican gulped up the fish instantly.

Great Blue weighing its options

Great Blue weighing its options

Great Blue fleeing from pelicans

Great Blue fleeing from pelicans

New years at home brought a surprise.  After I got home I checked the feeders to find several species of finches present.  A few goldfinches, house finches, and a lone purple finch.  I hadn’t seen a purple finch around the yard in a couple of months.  Last year I didn’t get a purple until March so I was ecstatic to get one on the first day of the year.

I’m making a new page for the new year if you’re interested in keeping track of the list.

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