Hint of Spring, Genetic Deformity, and Early Migrants

Hint of Spring

Spring is about a week away and to most Arkansans it can’t come fast enough.  Early wildflowers are starting to bloom, amphibians are starting to call, and birds are singing more.

On Wednesday (3/11), I went to Lake Saracen to look for newly arrived swallows and to try for rails in the reeds.  Neither were there and the lake was low on bird activity.  However, there were several frog species singing.  The most prevalent were the Spring Peepers and Leopard Fogs.  There were little blue flowers blooming through the Bermuda grass throughout the open areas.  It was joined by purple-flowered mints that poked up here and there and hundreds of dandelions.  The blue flowers were Bird’s-eye Speedwells (Veronica persica) and the mints were mainly Purple Deadnettles (Lamium purpureum) and Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).

Purple Deadnettle

Purple Deadnettle

Bird's-eye Speedwell

Bird’s-eye Speedwell

The most exciting birds were a large kettle of raptors that flew over the north section of the lake.  There were about 11 Turkey Vultures, 4 Black Vultures, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, and 1 Cooper’s Hawk.  As we left, we passed a group of American Coots on the parking lot.  Its always fun to watch the coots on land.  They’re quite goofy looking.

American Coot

American Coot

Genetic Deformity

After Saracen, I spent the rest of the day at my church.  I birded the woods around the church and got quite a few species.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

There were several Pine Warblers singing among the pines and a handful of Yellow-rumped Warblers foraging in White Oak (Quercus alba) canopy.  About 3 Brown Creepers moved through the area.

Brown Creeper on a White Oak

Brown Creeper on a White Oak

They preferred to forage on the White Oaks, probably because of the oak’s flaky bark.  I followed a trail to an opening in the woods to look for frogs that I heard calling.  Here, there were lots of Spring Peepers and several Cajun Chorus Frogs.  The Chorus Frogs were in small puddles in a field.  As I approached they would duck under leaves to hide.  Walking back from the field I came across a group of American Robins foraging in some leaf litter.  One of them was splotchy white.  I couldn’t think of what it was until I got the binoculars on it.  Here before me was a leucistic Robin.  This was only my third leucistic bird.  I once had a Eurasian Collared-Dove and a Brown-headed Cowbird that were both leucistic.

American Robin

American Robin

Leucistic American Robin

Leucistic American Robin

Early Migrants

There is a man made lake near the house that has a power line that runs along it.  This is a favorite perch for swallows that forage over the lake.  During the last week I have frequented this spot to look for new arrivals.  Today, I was rewarded with 5 Purple Martins.  These were the first neotropical migrants I have seen this year.  It was a dreadful day for light and the pictures taken didn’t really turn out.

Purple Martins

Purple Martins

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