Mid-January at Lake Maumelle

Last Saturday (Jan 10th), a few of us went to Lake Maumelle (Northwest of Little Rock).  Although parts of Lake Maumelle are guarded, most of it is very birder friendly.  My favorite spots to bird are on the western side of the lake and they are Bufflehead Bay (which holds the Jolly Roger Marina), Loon Point, and Vista Point.  Lake Maumelle is one of the best places in central Arkansas to see open water birds such as Loons, Grebes, Diving Ducks, Eagles, and Gulls.  Lake Maumelle usually hosts Pacific, Red-throated, and Common Loons.  The former two are actually rare in the state but seem to occur annually on the lake.  I got the Pacific last year with a lot of help but have never seen the Red-throated.  There are hundreds of Commons on the lake.

Our first stop was Bufflehead Bay where we walked the Farkleberry Trail to the mouth of the bay.  We saw Pied-billed Grebes and Bufflehead in the bay and watched Juncos and Chickadees flit about in the vegetation on the bank.  We met up with some familiar, local, birding friends and chatted a little.  They hadn’t seen anything but Commons so far and they were going to head on to the other locales on the lake.  We walked on and immediately started seeing Common Loons.  A few Bald Eagles flew over and one dove after a fish.  There were a few Bonaparte’s Gulls on the lake as well.  Compared to other trips the lake was a little dead.  However, the woods adjacent to the lake were alive.  The woods surrounding the lake is an upland mixed forest with the dominate trees being Post Oak and Shortleaf Pine.  When we were halfway down the paved trail we started hearing gobs of Pine Siskins in the Shortleaf Pines with Goldfinches.  We had two immature Red-headed Woodpeckers on separate snags and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker making its way through the pines.  We stopped at the end of the trail to scan the lake but were more preoccupied with the song birds that were descending a berry-ladened Black Gum.  There were chickadees, siskins, and goldfinches around the gum but the one that got our attention was the Cedar Waxwings.  I’ve never met a birder who doesn’t love a Cedar Waxwing and these were only a few feet above our heads.  After staring in awe at the pretty songbirds we headed back.  This time, in the bay, we had a Common Loon with a fish in its mouth.  I went back and forth on the ID and finally sent a picture off to a local expert.

Common Loon swallowing fish

Common Loon swallowing fish

Common Loon holding fish

Common Loon holding fish

Next, we headed to Loon Point which has a couple of viewing points of the lake.  We saw 8 Bald Eagles in one view.  Most of them were immature and I could never get a good look at what they were chasing.  There was a small raft of Common Goldeneyes on this part of the lake as well as Horned Grebes.  Buffleheads and Bonaparte’s Gulls were common at this site, too.

Finally, we ended at Vista Point.  This is at the western end of the lake and is just a pull in view of the lake.  We had the most enclosed view of the lake but had the most concentration of water birds at this site.  We scanned the near and far banks and came up with 8 different species of ducks:  Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and Hooded Merganser.  There were at least 4 Common Loons and several Horned Grebes.

Despite missing the two rare loons, we had a great time and saw a lot of great birds.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

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