The end of January has had some ups and downs. Ups: several lifers. Downs: missed the biggest state bird of the year so far. I’ve birded multiple counties in Arkansas and added several birds to my life list and to my Jefferson County Big Year list. I write this on January 29th so there may still be some good birds in the last two days of the month.
On January 21st I spent an hour or two at Lake Saracen (Jefferson County) before church. I walked the first leg of the main trail but also birded a park near Brump Bayou on the western bank of the lake. Good birds on this outing were FOY Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, and an Orange-crowned Warbler. On that outing I got 44 species. I birded the last hour of daylight at the church (Jefferson Co.) and got 14 of the usual suspects.
On January 24th I joined the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas on its monthly trip. Originally, this trip was going to take us to Lake Dardanelle and Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge. However, there was an abrupt change of plans because a first state record bird was seen on the lock and dam on Lake Dardanelle. We met at Mayflower (Faulkner Co.) and picked up a few water birds like Pied-billed Grebes and Ring-billed Gulls. We left and got to the dam (Pope Co.) to try and see the first state record Great Black-backed Gull. We scanned the dam and the tailwater to find only an immature Lesser Black-backed Gull (a lifer and a great consolation), a couple of Herring Gulls (FOY), and dozens of Ring-billed Gulls. While waiting for the GBBG we watched thousands of Snow Geese fly east over the river/lake. We also saw several Bald Eagles on the river.
On the same day we hit Delaware Bay Recreational Area (Yell Co.) on Lake Dardanelle. On the drive in (Logan Co.) we saw a Greater Roadrunner (FOY) in someone’s lawn. I’d love to have a Greater Roadrunner show up in my yard. Delaware Bay was pretty slow and the best birds were Common Goldeneyes and Horned Grebes.
After this we hit the dam again from the Yell County side but saw no GBBG. I left the main group and headed to Holla Bend NWR (Pope Co.) and finished my birding day there. No First of Years here but a lot of good birds. Me and a buddy managed to sneak up on about 40 Green-winged Teal and got great looks. We had several more Snow Goose and a Northern Harrier hunting a field.
On January 27th I birded around home and some in Bryant (Saline Co.). In the Bryant Lowe’s I had a flyover of Canada Geese. Later that night I was stargazing and I heard a flock of Snow Geese fly over. That was first for the yard on the year. I was surprised to hear the Snow Geese flying over in pitch black (although the moon was quite bright).
On January 28th I went down to Pine Bluff (Jefferson Co.) and birded a little at Saracen and a lot on Wilbur West Rd. At Saracen I birded the northwest corner of the lake and a little bit of Caney Bayou. A few Virginia Rails had been reported here during the Pine Bluff Christmas Bird Count last year. I didn’t get a single rail but a lot of coots. There was a vocal Winter Wren and a few Swamp Sparrows along the bayou and in the bottomland hardwoods. The species that were the biggest surprise were an American Snout butterfly, Red-eared Slider and an Eastern River Cooter. At Wilbur West I mainly birded the wetlands. There were a few Mallards, Shovelers, and a ton of Gadwalls. A Great Blue Heron and Great Egret were the only waders. The best bird was a lone Sharp-shinned Hawk (FOY) that flew over the wetlands. Our smallest hawk was about Blue Jay sized and did a semi-soar overhead for a few minutes. Red-tailed Hawks were at the edges of the wetlands but were soon joined by roosting Red-winged Blackbirds. I came upon 4 Marsh Wrens that were very vocal but also very secretive. I stood inches from one and couldn’t see it. I could see the grass that moved as it supported the tiny birds weight but I never did see the bird.
On January 29th I birded along Lorance Creek in Saline County. I got several woodpecker species: Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, and a Flicker. The bird of the outing was a FOY Brown-headed Nuthatch. I was glad to hear a couple herps here as well: Spring Peepers and Cajun Chorus Frogs.
If more exciting birding is done on the last two days of the month I will edit this post.