White-rumped Sandpipers are migrating through Arkansas right now on their journey from southern South America to their breeding grounds in the northern tundra of Canada and Alaska. According to All About Birds, they actually make one of the longest migrations of any North American bird, sometimes flying 2,500 miles without a rest. The trip takes about a month.
I’ve been seeing reports of this medium-sized shorebird on eBird and birder chat groups for weeks now, but Monday marked the first time I have seen one (or at least successfully identified what I saw). Their size and coloring actually allow them to blend in pretty well – at least when I’m searching for them.
In mid-May, I joined a birding field trip to the David D. Terry Lock and Dam. It was really enjoyable – both in company and birds found. However, I’ve spent the days since trying to figure out the identity of two warblers photographed. I finally broke down and emailed another birder who’s been willing to help me with my identification with needed. While I was correct in identifying the above Bay-breasted Warbler, I learned my other mystery warbler was in fact a Blackpoll. I’m pretty excited to have seen both – especially since it appears I was the only one of the group to have seen them. I snapped the photos while we were looking at some other warblers.
Both warbler species have been migrating through Arkansas for the past few weeks. The Bay-breasted Warbler winters in South America and breeds in northern Canada. According to All About Birds, the Blackpoll Warbler has the longest overwater journey of any songbird – nearly 1,800 miles nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean. It winters in South America and breeds in the boreal forests of Canada.
While common, the Blackpoll’s population is in a steep decline with reports indicating it has lost about 88% of its population in the last 40 years. The Bay-breasted Warbler is of low concern, conservation wise.
I’ve seen Inca Doves in Costa Rica, but not in Arkansas. I chased reports of this rare dove in the state for years with no success to the point I stopped trying when I saw random reports of one being spotted.
However … I’ve been seeing reports of an Inca Dove being spotted at Lake Atkins in Pope County for over a week. I was piddling around the house Saturday when I saw a report of one being spotted at Lake Atkins roughly an hour before I saw the report. I couldn’t resist – and, well, I wanted out of the house.
At Lake Atkins, I slowly drove down the streets in the reported area for close to 30 minutes with no success (at least with an Inca Dove spotting). I was on my final loop and prepared to leave when two doves landed in the driveway I was passing. It was two Inca Doves.
Inca Doves are pretty common from the southwestern United States to far western Panama. There are reports of sightings within Arkansas each year. Inca Doves are ground doves with red eyes, a long tail and scaly-looking feathers. They blend in well with the gravel roads and lots I’ve always seen them walking on. One interesting tidbit: their call sounds like they are cooing “no hope.”
I’ve been on the hunt to spot and photograph a Louisiana Waterthrush, a member of the warbler family that stays close to moving water and is among the earliest migrating warblers.
I finally spotted my first Louisiana Waterthrush today at the Lorance Creek Natural Area. It was also my first trip to the this natural area, which has a .5 mile roundtrip trail that starts in an upland pine-oak forest and ends with a boardwalk through an open water tupelo-bald cypress forest. Added in 1990, Arkansas Heritage describes the natural area as primarily a shallow, groundwater-fed swamp that spreads out along both sides of Lorance Creek. It is situated at the transition zone between the sandy uplands of the Coastal Plain and the flat lowlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.
I got there at 7:51 a.m. and spent the next almost two hours searching for birds. I found 31 species and was actually greeted in the parking lot by a Black-and-White Warbler and a Brown-headed Nuthatch.
I’m looking forward to coming back later when migration picks back up to see What other warblers I can find. Until then, I’m happy with my sightings so far, which include an Acadian Flycatcher, Indigo Buntings and Prothonotary Warblers.
This month, I was able to get a better look at long-billed and short-billed dowitchers. I consider that a great feat for me. The two species are very similar in appearance – AllAboutBirds.org notes you tell them apart by the short-billed dowitcher having a shorter bill (although there can be an overlap in bill size) and a slimmer underbelly. The best way to tell them apart is by their call.
On Sunday, I decided to revisit the Hendrix Creek Preserve in Conway to find the visiting rare Limpkin, and ended up stopping in Mayflower on my way home to tour through Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area, Lake Conway and Camp Robinson Special Use Area.
It was a birdy trip with my most exciting sight being the above Prairie Warbler. I’ve heard them before but it was the first time I was able to see and then photograph one. Here are a few others found:
My birding trips have picked up recently. I’ve found a birding buddy to go on weekly birding trips to different parts of the state, and we’ve been taking advantage of the current bird migrations to see as many birds as we can. Here’s a few of what we have seen so far:
Earlier this year, my winter bird to find was the Prarie Falcon. It look me months but I finally spotted the above one on February 11 in Atkins Bottoms. Prairie Falcons are typically found more west of Arkansas; the non breeding season has them in the states bordering Arkansas to the west. Several are still typically found in Arkansas each year – with the one photographed being reported at Atkins Bottoms off and on for weeks.
I got lucky. I just happened to spot it flying toward me before it disappeared. A fellow birder who was just minutes away from me could not relocate it.
My next goal was to find a Peregrine Falcon. No such luck. That is until May 16 when I got an email from an eBird reviewer. A person looking through eBird photos had reported my photo of a Red-shouldered Hawk taken on May 1 at Alcoa Bottoms in Clark County. What was wrong with the photo? Well, it wasn’t a Red-shouldered Hawk. It was a Peregrine Falcon.
So, basically, I found my target bird without even realizing it. Peregrine Falcons are found in Arkansas during migration season. Did you know they can fly up to 25-34 mph when traveling and up to 69 mph when pursuing prey? The falcon can be found on all continents except Antartica, and was also eradicated from eastern North America due to pesticide poisoning. Recovery efforts have allowed the falcons to make a incredible rebound, according to AllAboutBirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/overview.
The American Bittern has been my goal bird for 2023. And for weeks I kept missing it despite other birders seeing it just minutes before or after I visited a spot. Heck, a person I bird with spotted one flying across the road while in the same car as me. I saw it land in the field but I did not get a good enough view of it for the sighting to count (at least for me). That bittern landed by another vehicle of birders who confirmed its identity.
I finally spotted the above American Bittern earlier tonight. It was an especially great sighting because it happened on my 500th day of submitting a daily eBird checklist.
American Bitterns are heard more often than seen, and pass through Arkansas during migration, according to AllAboutBirds.org. Another birder actually told me to not expect to get a photo of one because they are hard to spot, much less photograph. The American Bittern is found in marsh areas, and typically are found with their necks stretched and bill pointed upward (which helps them hide better among the reeds they are usually found in). Mine was found on the edge of a ditch at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge in the same spot that other birders reported finding one in several times over the past few weeks.
Now that I’ve found and photographed an American Bittern, I haven’t decided what my next goal bird will be.
I previously worked as a news and sports photographer. Recently I have been enjoying wildlife photography. My approach toward bird photos is similar to sports photography. I attempt to capture mostly action and hopefully a unique perspective.