Spring is just around the corner but I still have several winter birds missing from my Columbia Co., AR list. However, this first week of March has yielded some much needed year-round residents.
For the most part I have just birded the park and the surrounding roads so far. Dudney Rd. runs right by Logoly State Park, where I work, and ends at an intersection just east of Magnolia. This road goes by open woods, clear cut areas, pastures, and neighborhoods. Right now I get off work at 1700 and the sun sets a little after 1800 so I don’t get too much birding time in. Fortunately, this road has proven to be a gem. I started on it about a week ago and immediately found a Northern Harrier soaring over a clear cut. The harrier was a Columbian lifer, also a soon-to-leave migrant. Pine Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers chat about in the trees while Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows cover the ground of the roadsides. A small flock of Cedar Waxwings gave their high-pitched “see”s from the top of a tree in a Methodist parking lot. The piece de resistance was a small group of Wood Ducks that were in a small, wooded creek about 20 yards from the road. I watched as they watched me. One of them gave their wheezy, ascending call. I snapped a couple of pictures and then they scattered. These weren’t Columbian lifers but they may have given me my best picture of a Wood Duck and they were new on the year.
Just east of the park is land owned by a hunting club. A rather primitive road runs through it and goes by a small cemetery. Apparently the cemetery is quite old but I haven’t checked any of the tombstones for ages. I did check the area for birds and was not disappointed. Both Carolina and Winter Wren were present and vocalized. White-throated Sparrows scurried here and there, giving their “tseep” call all the while. Pine Warblers, once again, were abundant as were their host tree (Loblolly and Shortleaf Pines). On this day I was able to find a few butterflies out as well. A Sulphur (Pieridae) of some kind taunted me as I kept driving by it. Every time I stopped and tried to track it, it flew deeper into the woods. I finally got my camera lens on a Question Mark which was First of Year (FOY). While leaving I stopped near a section of the woods where the understory was very developed and listened to a rather weak Eastern Towhee song and watched as Northern Cardinals hopped about in the road, no doubt gathering grit.
In the park I have watched and listened. The watching doesn’t always pay off but the listening does. One day a Brown Thrasher let loose its 2-phrase, mimicking song from the park’s entrance. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks (Columbian lifer) seemed rather agitated by my presence near one of our springs. I bet they are trying to nest which will be awesome to show park visitors. The tree I believe they are trying to nest in is a very tall, probably really old Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), so an occasional hiker or tour group probably won’t disturb it. I think they nest in Central Park, so human interaction shouldn’t be a problem. I was able to find a Belted Kingfisher at our pond. Last year I heard this species at our largest vernal pool which is outside of our main park area. I wondered if our pond could support one and I hope this one returns. Kingfishers need a sizable bank to nest in so I doubt we find any pairs trying to breed but it would be nice to seem them more regularly.
In other parts of the state people are starting to see Purple Martins, Black-and-white Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Blue-winged Teal. The first three were all seen in the park last year but I would like to nab a migrating teal for the park. Right now my list is at 51 species.