Scouting out the blitz

I have been asked to help with a BioBlitz at a site called Interstate Park, in southeast Little Rock, Arkansas.  This site is often overlooked, as a major highway (Interstate-30) passes overhead a portion of the park.  The area has a rather high crime rate, too.  This park is in the Fourche Creek watershed and features a nice mixed forest.  I helped with a Fourche Creek Discovery Day in October of 2016 and I have birded it during two Little Rock Christmas Bird Count.  During the day of discovery, we found several different species of birds.    With that day being such a success, a BioBlitz was planned for this year.

To add a bit of purpose to my birding, I scouted out this area on 10 October 2017.  The BioBlitz that I will help out with is planned for the 28th.  I began the day at 9:00am, hoping to run into some insects in the latter part of my birding.  It was unseasonably warm, as this October has been.  Bumbling out of the car and I’m hearing Killdeer and Northern Mockingbirds.  European Starlings rest on the big lights of a baseball field.  I head over to the railroad tracks and follow them in a descent into a pipeline right-of-way.  Luckily, there are no trains to drown out the sounds of the birds early on.  I pick up a rather large group of House Finches, calling “cheer-up” from boxelders.  I flush up several Northern Cardinals and residual Indigo Buntings from the gravel trail/road.  They find shelter in trailside sumacs and brambles.  Brown Thrashers start in with their smacking calls and a Gray Catbird forages in a Chinaberry (all 3 Mimids accounted for).  Several of the Cardinals begin foraging higher up in the trees.  I find a bird with them that is similar in size but its tail isn’t as long, proportionately.  I raise the binocs to find that it is a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in non-breeding plumage.  Although I’m sure that these are common migrants in the fall, they seem to be no where near as common as they are during spring migration.  This was my first fall Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  I moved on down to the bottoms and find several woodland songbirds.  Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Carolina Wrens are in full voice.  Among them are several more Cardinals and a mewing Gray Catbird.  I added several woodpeckers to the days count as well.  Red-bellieds, Downies, and Northern Flickers were all heard and some were seen.  Throughout my walk, as expected, there was a constant flow of blackbirds flying overhead.  Most of these were Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds.  Every now and then I would find a small group of American Robins flying over too.  On the way back I stopped to listen one last time and I heard a harsh “check” call coming from a shrubby area.  I didn’t have to get much closer before I saw the bird that was calling.  It was a Common Yellowthroat, a species that is probably just migrating but may decide to overwinter.  This warbler is quite common but always a joy to see because they are very pretty and they can often be elusive.  I ended the outing with a flyover Mourning Dove.

This is a very birdy locale on the outskirts of greater Little Rock.  One of the main reasons for these discovery days and the BioBlitzes is to get people to realize how important the Fourche Creek watershed is.  Hopefully these upcoming BioBlitzes will achieve this mission and show central Arkansans what a gem this region holds.

bf meadowhawk maybe inpk.jpg

Blue-faced Meadowhawk maybe (ID based on dark legs)

RBGR--INPK.jpg

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

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