A Rather Large Day

Apparently the big day record in Arkansas, for birding, is 168 species.  This was accomplished by two birders and I would be very interested in seeing their itinerary for that day.  April into early May is the time to accomplish a big day in the state.  What makes this period so grand is the fact that we have a huge mix of winter residents that are lingering, year round residents, migrants that are passing through, and newly arrived breeding residents.  I think my personal best was in the mid-70’s in AR.  However, I inadvertently broke that record on 4/21/16.

Thursday, the 21st day of April in the year 2016, was my day off.  I decided to spend it around Lake Millwood and Bois D’Arc Wildlife Management Area.  Both of these areas are around Hope, Arkansas, made famous for being the birthplace of former president, Bill Clinton.  I left Logoly State Park (my home base) around 800 am.  My iPhone took me on a rather strange route and I ended up traversing some awesome back roads in Nevada and Hempstead Counties.  I came across some flooded timber that held all kinds of woodland birds.  The Red-eyed Vireos were out in full force and sang their “see me? here I am. over here. look up!” song.  A First of Season (FOS) Yellow-breasted gave its alternating song from the wood’s edge while White-eyed Vireos chattered away in a scrubby transition of forest to field.  Here, the Indigo Buntings and Common Yellowthroats reigned supreme.  However, a weak, buzzy song pierced through their cacophony to let me know that a FOS Prairie Warbler was not to be missed.  The field abruptly changed back to forest and Kentucky Warblers gave a “wadeep, wadeep, wadeep” song while Hooded Warblers sang “what-ee, what-ee, what-eeoh.”  A Yellow-throated Vireo gave a “three-eight” song and Summer Tanagers flew back and forth among the midstory.  Just about every stop I made on these back roads yielded the buzzy calls of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and the lingering songs of White-throated Sparrows.  A flooded clear cut held a lone Great Blue Heron but he was serenaded by a Louisiana Waterthrush from a nearby creek.  Not to be outdone by his cohabitant, a Prothonotary Warbler gave an urgent “seet, seet, seet, seet” song.

praw

Prairie Warbler

While nearing Hope, the forests gave way to rural, open neighborhoods where a Lark Sparrow was flushed onto a fence by my passing car.  Blue Grosbeaks and Eastern Meadowlarks lined fences and powerlines while Cattle Egrets and Brown-headed Cowbirds tended to their flocks.  Both Turkey and Black Vultures soared on thermals over these fields.  A roadside carcass attracted both of them and a couple of loud Fish Crows.  Red-winged Blackbirds gathered around scattered ponds and flared their red scapulars to anyone who would watch.

caeg

Cattle Egret

I finally made it to Lake Millwood and hit the state park, of the same name, first.  It looked as though rain was on its way so I rather hurriedly made my way through this park.  This state park experienced incredible flooding twice last year.  So many of the campgrounds were closed due to renovations.  I just drove down the main road but was not disappointed.  Great Crested Flycatchers and FOS Eastern Wood-Pewees called from mixed forests.  Both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles sang from the same willow oak.  I pulled up to the marina and flushed all kinds of birds.  A Spotted Sandpiper yelled at me while it fled the boat ramp.  Killdeer leered and ran from my presence making their displeasure known through high-pitched screeches.  A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew about my car but landed only a few feet away.  Needless to say, it fell victim to my camera.  The last bird I flushed as I lumbered out of my car was a Blue-winged Teal.  This was the only Blue-winged I saw today and only one of three waterfowl species I found, which was surprising (I use the term “waterfowl” to refer to any member of the order Anseriformes, which includes swans, geese, ducks, and mergansers).

stfl

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I left the park and headed to Okay Landing.  One of AR’s premier birders is a fan of this area and has submitted hundreds of records of all types of wildlife.  I visited this place looking mostly for dragonflies/damselflies but found a lot of birds instead.  I headed to the water to scan for damsels but flushed a Double-crested Cormorant out instead.  Chipping Sparrows carried on with their dainty selves all around the parking lot and a Hairy Woodpecker gave its harsh, yet hollow “pik” call.  My only American Goldfinch came from this locale as well. As far as Odonata goes, I did find my FOS Eastern Pondhawk and saw a couple Fragile Forktails.

Eastern Pondhawk female

Eastern Pondhawk female

I picked up some lunch from Hope and looked around for the Great-tailed Grackles that frequent Hope’s McDonald’s.  After lunch I decided to hit one more stop then head back to home base.  My last stop was Bois D’Arc Wildlife Management Area.  Apparently I saved the best for last.  I started my descent down a hill that leads to the main lake and immediately got into White-eyed Vireos, Pine Warblers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and Black-and-white Warblers.  A little further down the road and I came upon some heavily vegetated water which held American Coots as well as Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Prothonotary Warblers.  I stopped at the main parking for the lake and looked out on the water.  I watched a Spotted Sandpiper fly in and walk around on the boat ramp.  I don’t know what it is with Spotteds and their affinity for boat ramps.  A Red-headed Woodpecker gave its harsh, high-pitched “churr” from a semi-savanna of pines.  Brown-headed Nuthatches joined in with their their squeaky calls later on.  Fully distracted from the water by the woods, I also picked up Yellow-throated Warblers, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, as well as Orchard Orioles and Northern Mockingbirds.  I drove down the levee to get to a creek and flushed up a rather late American Pipit.  The creek I was driving to was almost part of the main lake.  The road was barely above the water level and had basically become an isthmus.  However, the birds and butterflies loved it.  I stopped at the end of the road, for it was a cul-de-sac, and walked back to the lake.  I immediately found a Solitary Sandpiper at the road’s edge, so basically in the water.  Little Blue Herons and a Great Egret foraged in the flooded woods.  Prothonotary Warbler’s were everywhere in the midstory while the Northern Parulas seem to pick up where they left off at the canopy level.  Among the sounds of these warblers, I heard a slightly less familiar song.  I’ve always compared this song to the chatter of a Chimney Swift, but a little less chaotic.  This is the song of the Tennessee Warbler.  Of the entire day, this was the only bird I found that was not at least a partial resident in AR (Blue-winged Teals do actually breed in parts of AR).  As I mentioned earlier, the butterflies enjoyed this water that had encroached onto gravel where they could drink it.  There tons of individual butterflies but they only represented a couple different species, including:  American Snout, Red-spotted Purple, Checkered White, Question Mark, Hackberry Emperor, Common Buckeye, Silvery Checkerspot, and Cloudless Sulphur.  There was a lady out walking that flushed up a Wood Duck that I would have completely missed on my own.  The panicked duck set off sort of a chain reaction that involved the day’s first Red-shouldered Hawk.  I talked with her and she led me to a spot where American Alligators frequent.  We got out and there were two fairly large alligators (one was about 8 ft long and the other was about 10 ft) on the banks.  It was awesome to see them but my attention was quickly drawn away by a brilliant Purple Gallinule that was walking about on some aquatic vegetation.  We eventually scared the alligators into the water which sent everything in the area into a frenzy.  Apparently there were a lot more Purple Gallinules than the one.  There were also several Red-winged Blackbirds and a Pied-billed Grebe that came out of the wood work to see what was up.  I parted ways with my friendly guide but not before she pointed out where I could find a nice heron rookery.  I drove over to the next point to look for these herons and was not disappointed.  Right in front of me were several Green Herons and more Purple Gallinules.  Also, a smaller alligator (about 4 ft.) was perched on a mudflat nearby.  I heard the rookery before I saw it.  There was a constant stream of Little Blue Herons in and out of this colony.  Every time one would fly in it seemed the whole area would erupt in raspy heron calls.  I was a bout to leave when I saw a rallid-esque bird fly by and land in what appeared to be a patch of water hyacinth.  I got the binos on the bird quickly and saw that it was a Common Gallinule.  This was my target bird for the locale, though I was beginning to worry about not getting.  I thought it would have been odd to get the Purple Gallinule but not the Common.  After a celebratory fist pump I returned to my car and headed out.

puga

Purple Gallinule

sosa

Solitary Sandpiper

hackberry emperor

Hackberry Emperor

spsa

Spotted Sandpiper

IMG_4261

American Alligator

The day turned out to be one my biggest, if not my biggest birding day.  I ended up with 85 species and missed several common species, like a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a Chuck-will’s-widow.  I will add the list here with FOS birds in bold and all caps:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Wood Duck
  3. Blue-winged Teal
  4. Pied-billed Grebe
  5. Double-crested Cormorant
  6. Great Blue Heron
  7. Great Egret
  8. LITTLE BLUE HERON
  9. Cattle Egret
  10. GREEN HERON
  11. Black Vulture
  12. Turkey Vulture
  13. Red-shouldered Hawk
  14. PURPLE GALLINULE
  15. COMMON GALLINULE
  16. American Coot
  17. Killdeer
  18. Spotted Sandpiper
  19. Solitary Sandpiper
  20. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  21. Mourning Dove
  22. Barred Owl
  23. Belted Kingfisher
  24. Red-headed Woodpecker
  25. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  26. Downy Woodpecker
  27. Hairy Woodpecker
  28. Pileated Woodpecker
  29. EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE
  30. Eastern Phoebe
  31. Great Crested Flycatcher
  32. Eastern Kingbird
  33. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  34. White-eyed Vireo
  35. Yellow-throated Vireo
  36. Red-eyed Vireo
  37. Blue Jay
  38. American Crow
  39. Fish Crow
  40. Barn Swallow
  41. Cliff Swallow
  42. Carolina Chickadee
  43. Tufted Titmouse
  44. White-breasted Nuthatch
  45. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  46. Carolina Wren
  47. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  48. Eastern Bluebird
  49. American Robin
  50. GRAY CATBIRD
  51. Northern Mockingbird
  52. European Starling
  53. American Pipit (flagged as rare; about a week late)
  54. Cedar Waxwing
  55. Louisiana Waterthrush
  56. Black-and-white Warbler
  57. Prothonotary Warbler
  58. TENNESSEE WARBLER
  59. KENTUCKY WARBLER
  60. Common Yellowthroat
  61. Hooded Warbler
  62. Northern Parula
  63. Pine Warbler
  64. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  65. Yellow-throated Warbler
  66. PRAIRIE WARBLER
  67. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
  68. Chipping Sparrow
  69. LARK SPARROW (first of season but not first of year; rare record was seen during Lonoke CBC in January)
  70. White-throated Sparrow
  71. Eastern Towhee
  72. Summer Tanager
  73. Northern Cardinal
  74. Blue Grosbeak
  75. Indigo Bunting
  76. Red-winged Blackbird
  77. Eastern Meadowlark
  78. Common Grackle
  79. Brown-headed Cowbird
  80. ORCHARD ORIOLE
  81. BALTIMORE ORIOLE
  82. Pine Siskin
  83. American Goldfinch
  84. House Finch
  85. House Sparrow
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