The lows have gotten into the 50s and the highs don’t make it to 90s. Fall is upon us which means some birds are winging their way back home, as the song goes. On one of my days off I decided to take advantage of this cool spell and get to birding. My choice locale for this day off was Lorance Creek Natural Area.
I got out to Lorance at about 810 am and it was about 57 degrees. The parking lot was quite alive with sound. Cardinals called to each from across the lot. A Carolina Wren climbed atop a dead tree in the middle of a field to belt out its song. Two Eastern Phoebes chatted and chased each other. A Pine Warbler piped up from a stand of pines, believe it or not. Chickadees and Titmice flitted about the mid story of the forest edge. A variety of calls were given from both. One of the bigger surprises was a Summer Tanager calling “tick-a tick-a.”
As I moved into the trail I heard a Red-shouldered Hawk giving its “kee-yir” call as it flew above the canopy. Three woodpeckers were heard calling throughout the woods: Downy, Red-bellied, and a Flicker. It was interesting to see an immature Red-bellied hacking at the trunk of a dead tree. Not long into the trail I realized that the wildflowers were trying to steal the show. A large stand of Spanish Needles (Bidens sp.) lined a small pool.
Mixed in this stand were some Meadow Beauty (Rhexia virginica), Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), an aster (my guess is Boltonia species), and three different Boneset/Thoroughwort (Eupatorium): Round-leaf (E. rotundifolium), Small flower (E. semiserratum), and Common (E. perfoliatum).
Nearby, a Climbing Hempweed (Mikania scandens) scattered across the ground. A tricky Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) sprouted up with its blunt leaves along the trail. I say tricky it looks like it has these clear cut, typical petals. However, these are leaves and not petals at all.
As I transitioned from upland to lowland, I saw Devil’s Grandmother (Elephantopus tomentosus) and a few Giant Ragweeds (Ambrosia trifida) which were above 5’10”. I made it to the lowland where the Devil’s Grandmother was replaced by Carolina Elephant’s-foot (Elephantopus carolinianus).
In a bramble of Brier (Smilax rotundifolia), Peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea), and Poison-Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) was a new plant for me: Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum). This plant used to be in the Eupatorium genus and in Smith’s Keys to the Flora of Arkansas it is still listed in that genus.
Two other wildflowers tried to show off as well: Beefsteak Plant (Perilla frutescens) and Asiatic Day Flower (Commelina communis). These are non-native, invasive plants. They were found right along the trail. These invasive plants are able to infiltrate ecosystems through trails and other disturbances just like us.
I made it to the boardwalk and checked the water for herps. It was way to cold for any reptiles or amphibians to be hustling and busting. However, this cold did ground the insects and I got a good look at a Common Scorpion Fly (Panorpa insolens).
In the marvelous Water Tupelos (Nyssa aquatica) and Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) I heard a Yellow-throated Vireo sing and call. I found this a bit out of season but enjoyed the song. Another surprise peeked up from among young tupelo and Sweetspire (Itea virginica). This surprise is a gem of shady creek banks: Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
As six bluebirds saw me off I reflected on the outing. There is always something to find at Lorance Creek. This day the birds were active but the wildflowers made quite a showing as well.