Welcome to Autumn: Bird and Bug Delight

As autumn carries on, we look for new arrivals and savor the ones who are about to leave.  Since the last post, I have been able to find a few more First of Seasons (FOS) here and there.  A trip to Lake Saracen, in Pine Bluff, yielded a few more.  Along with the birds, there were several cool bugs seen that will soon vanish as the weather cools down.

When I arrived at Saracen I first scoped out the lake from the parking lot.  I didn’t need a scope to see the feeding frenzy of American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants that was going on only 40 yards in front of me.  They were feeding in the shallows near an exposed mudflat that was partially a continuation of Lake Saracen’s largest island.  This area is in the southeast corner of the lake.  On the mudflat were around 15 Great Egrets and 26 Killdeer.  I scanned the mudflat and found several Least Sandpipers and a couple of Wilson’s Snipes.  I scanned the rest of the lake and found more egrets, pelicans, and cormorants but also two Ring-billed Gulls and 11 American Coots.  I turned my attention to the northeast corner and found a few Great Blue Herons as wells as some ducks on a newly exposed mudflat.

American White Pelicans circling

American White Pelicans circling

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

I packed the scope up and went mobile to access the northeast corner of the lake.  On the way I flushed several Starlings and a Belted Kingfisher from the powerlines that ran parallel to the first leg of the trail.  Several Fish Crows lingered on these lines and let me get some good photos.

Fish Crow

Fish Crow

In Arkansas, we have two crows: American and Fish.  American Crows are generally everywhere but Fish Crows are little less abundant (only slightly) and are more picky when it comes to habitat.  Fish Crows, as the name suggests, are tied to water and are generally more likely to be encountered than the American around rivers and lakes.  The American Crow is significantly larger and has a higher-pitched call that sounds like “caw.”  The Fish Crow gives a lower “cah-ah” call and looks a little disproportionate with the front end seeming to be more substantial than its back end.  However, they are incredibly similar and are only reliably distinguished by their call.  After taking photos of these crows I passed an open area that held many small, blue-purple daisies.  On these daisies were many butterflies, hover-flies, wasps, and bees.  In the rip-rap that was placed along the banks were several, different plants growing which attracted Cloudless Sulphurs, Variegated Fritillaries, and a Gulf Fritillary.  The bottomland hardwoods that was on the other side of the trail past the open field.  This held a few Cardinals and Yellow-rumped Warblers as well as a horde of grasshoppers.  The most common grasshopper I saw (and I saw tons) was the lovely Differential Grasshopper.

Common Checkered Skipper

Common Checkered Skipper

Fiery Skipper

Fiery Skipper

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

Assassin Bug (Acanthocephala terminalis)

Assassin Bug (Acanthocephala terminalis)

Differential Grasshopper

Differential Grasshopper

I finally got to the northeast corner of the lake.  This section normally features a lot of emergent reeds and other vegetation.  However, we are in a drought and the water has receded leaving a nice mudflat.  On this long stretch of exposed earth were several Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, and a few representatives of the aforementioned shorebirds.  There were two new shorebirds for the day:  Greater Yellowlegs and a Dunlin.  The latter is my first sighting for Arkansas.   I was quite ecstatic to find this rather common shorebird that has become something of a nemesis to me.  Its long, decurved bill was a good hint to its ID.  Its size was discernable thanks to the supporting cast, Least Sandpiper and Killdeer, which foraged by its side.  After admiring this bird, which was probably in its first winter plumage, I took some photographs for documentation and headed on.

Dunlin with Least Sandpiper

Dunlin with Least Sandpiper

Dunlin

Dunlin

Passing the reeds I heard a Marsh Wren calling and was able to pish it out of dense cover.  A Mockingbird sang a deceivingly soft song from a nearby cypress.  I had a hard time locating it because I was looking for a distant bird.  In contrast, a molting Red-winged Blackbird belted out its familiar ditty.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

As I neared my car I found our other two mimids calling from a forested section adjacent to the road.  The Catbird gave its “meeew” and the Thrasher hit me with a sharp “smack.”  I looked over the lake once more to bid farewell to one of my favorite birding spots.  Until next time.

Lake Saracen view from the southeast corner

Lake Saracen view from the southeast corner

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