A Moderate Goal: International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

Usually the second Saturday of May is the International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD).  This year the count was on the 14th.  I had the day off so I decided to bird it up in Columbia County, AR.

In my mind I had created an itinerary for this big day that was being celebrated across the globe.  However, when the day arrived this itinerary was adapted quite liberally.  I woke up at 5:45 am and birded around Logoly State Park, which was home base again.  I picked up some dawn singers including Summer Tanager, Wood Thrush, Pine Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird (the hummer isn’t necessarily a strong vocalist but it tries).  From the park I eased on down the road and stopped at an adjacent city park.  I picked up Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler (probably the most prolific warbler on the day), White-eyed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Wood-Pewee.  The day before (5/13) I had observed a Wild Turkey and a Yellow-breasted Chat in this area but missed them on this run.

Next, I headed to Lake Columbia, but I made a quick stop near the campus of Southern Arkansas University (SAU).  SAU has a nice rodeo complex, Story Arena, which is in the middle of pastures and marshy ponds.  I stopped here and picked up a couple lovely field birds: Eastern Kingbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Great Blue Herons, Common Yellowthroat, Dickcissel, Cliff Swallow, Blue Grosbeak, and Great Egrets.  I only spent about 10 minutes in this area but pulled in quite a haul.

I continued on my way to Lake Columbia but was distracted by all the birds that were on my route.  I drove on Columbia County Road 27 which features alternating qausi-biomes of pine-hardwood forest and man-made, grassy/scrubby fields.  Here, I added Eastern Towhee, Mourning Dove, Yellow-throated Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Red-shouldered Hawk, Chipping Sparrow, and Orchard Orioles.  My last birds on this drive were two non-natives that I was surprisingly glad to add:  Eurasian Collared-Dove and House Sparrow.  I don’t care much for the House Sparrow, but I do enjoy seeing the Collared-Doves.

I finally made it to Lake Columbia.  Right off the bat I heard several Common Yellowthroats.  The Yellowthroats were everywhere, even in areas of poor habitat.  I stopped at a little pull-in to scan the northeastern edge of the lake, which is cut off by an overpass.  There wasn’t too much activity but there were several egrets in the distance.  Some were Great Egrets but others were too far to tell if they were Snowy or Little Blue Heron immatures.  I stopped at the northeastern-most boat ramp and scanned the trees.  Prothonotary Warblers were singing and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were in abundance but little else filled the trees.  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo skulked and called among the mid-story and a flock of 24 Cedar Waxwings flew about the canopy.  Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Kingbirds dominated the heavily vegetated lake.  Wood Ducks flew overhead and called and a pair of Canada Geese honked in the distance.  I drove on to the northern landing and hoped for the best.  In a highline right-of-way I picked up the day’s only Yellow-breasted Chat as well as some common species like Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, and Brown Thrasher.  The northern landing didn’t hold as much as I had hoped but I did pick up a pair of Northern Rough-winged Swallows, a Red-headed Woodpecker, a hooting Barred Owl, and got great looks at a White-eyed Vireo.  Driving back through forests I picked up a much needed Kentucky Warbler and got a lone Cattle Egret in a pasture with cattle.  Four Spotted Sandpipers flew over and landed on some bare bank as I was leaving.  A pair of Chimney Swifts escorted me out.  While still in the vicinity of the lake, I flushed the first Black Vulture of the day from its rotting breakfast.

I drove back by Story Arena and picked up a Green Heron and an American Robin.  I took a different route back to the park and was glad I did.  I immediately started picking up House Sparrows, Dickcissels, Eastern Bluebirds, and American Crows.  As I moved into a lovely open, pine glade I found Red-eyed Vireos, Carolina Wrens, and Carolina Chickadees.  I hit a section that had been clear cut within the past decade but was beginning to grow back.  Here, I found my target bird for the locale.  As I was driving along the clear cut I could hear buntings, orioles, towhees, and others.  I wasn’t hearing the bird that I thought would be here so I turned off the car and sat in the middle of the road.  After a few seconds I heard this raspy, ascending song and did a fist pump of elation.  I waited and listened again to this song that is one of my favorites, despite being more noise than song.  This was the Prairie Warbler, the bird of the day.  For years I only heard this bird and would stop in scrubby habitats to listen for the song to count the bird.  Earlier this year I was able to see one and get a picture, however, the song always amuses me for it is a surprisingly secretive bird.

Just before noon I went to the South Arkansas Arboretum which is a state park in El Dorado.  El Dorado is in Union County, so none of these birds count towards my moderate goal (I didn’t have any species here that I didn’t already have in Columbia Co.).  The arboretum is a lovely wooded trail that forms kind of a migrant trap, as it is surrounded by commercial and residential zones of El Dorado.  Unfortunately, I did not pick up any migrants.  The only bird I picked up here, that I didn’t have on the day was an American Redstart.  There were several of these brilliant warblers in a large white oak, along with Tufted Timice, Red-eyed Vireos, and Great Crested Flycatchers.


Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)

sagittaria graminea wole

Grass-leaved Arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea)

Banded Pennant crop

Banded Pennant (the only animal that was new on the year)

nomo crop

Northern Mockingbird, my only bird photo on the day


Eastern Pondhawk male

I stopped birding, for the most part, around  noon and had tallied 73 species on the day.  I took almost no photos of birds and only a handful in total.  Following is a list of birds that I saw.  There were no new state year birds seen but a few birds were new to Columbia Co. on the year.  Those new to my Columbia Co. year list will be in bold and all caps.  Birds will be in phylogenetic order.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Wood Duck
  3. Great Blue Heron
  4. Great Egret
  5. Cattle Egret
  7. Black Vulture
  8. Turkey Vulture
  9. Red-shouldered Hawk
  10. Killdeer
  11. Spotted Sandpiper
  12. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  13. Mourning Dove
  14. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  15. Barred Owl
  16. Chimney Swift
  17. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  18. Red-headed Woodpecker
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Downy Woodpecker
  21. Northern Flicker
  22. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  23. Eastern Phoebe
  24. Great Crested Flycatcher
  25. Eastern Kingbird
  26. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  27. White-eyed Vireo
  28. Yellow-throated Vireo
  29. Red-eyed Vireo
  30. Blue Jay
  31. American Crow
  32. Fish Crow
  33. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  34. Purple Martin
  35. Barn Swallow
  36. Cliff Swallow
  37. Carolina Chickadee
  38. Tufted Titmouse
  39. White-breasted Nuthatch
  40. Carolina Wren
  41. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  42. Eastern Bluebird
  43. Wood Thrush
  44. American Robin
  45. Brown Thrasher
  46. Northern Mockingbird
  47. European Starling
  48. Cedar Waxwing
  49. Louisiana Waterthrush
  50. Black-and-white Warbler
  51. Prothonotary Warbler
  53. Common Yellowthroat
  54. Hooded Warbler
  55. American Redstart (only seen in Union Co.)
  56. Pine Warbler
  57. Yellow-throated Warbler
  58. Prairie Warbler
  59. Yellow-breasted Chat
  60. Chipping Sparrow
  61. Eastern Towhee
  62. Summer Tanager
  63. Northern Cardinal
  64. Blue Grosbeak
  65. Indigo Bunting
  67. Red-winged Blackbird
  68. Eastern Meadowlark
  69. Common Grackle
  70. Brown-headed Cowbird
  71. Orchard Oriole
  72. House Finch
  73. House Sparrow



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