Today’s a state holiday and we’re snowed in. So, it was the perfect day to birdwatch. We had 23 total bird species visit our feeders today – and that doesn’t include some birds we typically see like the American Crow and White-breasted Nuthatch (both were present yesterday but not today 🤷🏼♀️). Here’s a few of my favorite visitors today:
No, I didn’t spend all day simply watching my feeders. There was also tax work and a walk around the neighborhood. I’ll let you guess which one was my favorite.
I can’t tell you how excited that makes me. It comes after years and multiple attempts of me thinking I finally found one – only for a more experienced birder that I trust to come forward and say, “that’s a House Finch. Good try.” 🤷🏼♀️
The Purple Finch I correctly identified was hanging out with American Goldfinches. It’s was a bird-filled yard. Below, I included another photo of the Purple Finch and American Goldfinches as well as my other favorite photos of the trip: one of a pair of Northern Cardinals and one of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
An Anna’s Hummingbird was reported in Vilonia yesterday. Luckily, the homeowner who reported her allowed me to stop by today to see her! 😍
Anna’s Hummingbirds have iridescent green feathers (males have rose-pink throats although the females have a tiny red throat patch – females of most species have none). They are typically found along the western coast and in New Mexico and Arizona. According to AllAboutBirds, unlike most hummingbirds, they either don’t migrate or migrate a very short distance to find better places to eat. Cool fact: during courtship, the male will fly up to 130 feet in the air and dive down to produce a burst of noise through their tail feathers. This takes the male about 12 seconds to do.
Today marks the THIRD hummingbird species I have seen in Arkansas since Dec. 3! Pretty impressive – and odd – seeing as I’ve only seen the Ruby Throated Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird since I started birding years ago. Hopefully it won’t be the last!
For the past eight years, I’ve had Mississippi Kites nest near my home. In Jonesboro, the kites could be found in trees in my front yard and my neighbor’s back yard. In Little Rock, the kites can be found soaring leisurely above our house. Mississippi Kites are one of my favorite birds – and I look forward to seeing them again in a few months. Cool fact about Mississippi Kites: the oldest one was at least 11 years old. It was banded in Kansas in 1984 and was later found in Texas in 1995, according to AllAboutBirds.org.
Earlier this week, an immature Black-chinned Hummingbird was reported to be in Austin, Ark. Today was the first day I could make the about 30 minute trip. I got lucky: the owners were gracious and let me visit, the weather was nice and the hummingbird was very active. It came to the feeder within five minutes of my arrival.
This was my first time to see a Black-chinned Hummingbird in Arkansas. This species (the male has an iridescent purple throat) is typically found further west, although AllAboutBirds.org reports more are starting to pass through the southeast and winter along the Gulf coast than was once believed. Most winter in western Mexico. For this specific hummingbird, the homeowners told me they just happened to spot it at one of their bushes that currently has yellow flowers blooming. They were quick to put up a feeder once they realized it was definitely a hummingbird in their backyard. A retired couple who travels and birdwatches later confirmed it was a rare species to Arkansas.
On Monday, I visited the Alma Water Treatment Plant to search for the rare Long-tailed Duck (above) that others had reported seeing there for several days. The plant was closed due to the holiday so I traveled the two hours hoping I could spot the bird from the road based off of the locations given by other birders. I started the trip off by spotting a Greater Roadrunner (below) while grabbing a drink at McDonalds in Conway so I felt pretty lucky.
Upon arriving at the Alma WTP, I immediately found my first American Pipit (pictured below). American Pipits are not rare to Arkansas – just me. All About Birds reports that they can be found in the state during the migratory and no breeding seasons. They are actually among the few American songbirds that nest in both Arctic tundra and alpine meadows.
I stayed for an hour looking among the various ducks for a white headed one. No luck. I was just preparing to leave when a fellow birder arrived. (Side note: this birder, who lives nearby, and I actually met on an international birding trip we both went on that was arranged by the Arkansas Audubon Society Trust.) Within minutes of her arrival, she took me to the corner she had spotted the bird in before and we immediately found the bird. Yes, I realize how lucky I am that she showed up when she did.
Long-tailed Ducks breed in the high Arctic and spend winters mostly along ocean coasts, according to AllAboutBirds.org. Fun fact: they are divers and can feed on small fish and invertebrates as deep as 200 feet. They actually spend 3-4 times as long underwater as on the surface.
I recently visited Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area for the first time. Located just west of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Rattlesnake Ridge consists of 373 acres in the Ouachita Mountains and the ridge is the watershed divide between the Big Maumelle and Little Maumelle rivers.
It is also home to three species of state conservation concern: the southeastern bat, the western diamondback rattlesnake and the Wright’s cliffbrake, a western desert fern. While I didn’t spot any of the above species, I did photograph my second Winter Wren. The only downside to my hike: I didn’t have enough time to hike to the top of the ridge.
They say whatever you do on the first day of a new year is what you will be doing a lot for the remainder of the year. I took this advice to heart and decided to take a morning walk and bird. I first visited the arboretum trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
Then, I visited a nearby old bridge that is no longer in use and is part of the Ouachita Trail area. The trip was a success. Not only was it a peaceful and happy trip, but I found plenty of birds. Here are a few photos from my trip.
I arrived home to find our feeders and front yard full of birds. 🐦 We even had a surprise visitor – a Cooper’s Hawk – that stayed quite a while, scaring off all of our other birds. Luckily, no birds were harmed during this visit. He eventually left, meaning all of our others slowly, hesitantly came back.
Earlier this month, I saw my first Broad-tailed Hummingbird in Wynne. The immature male is the fifth Broad-tailed Hummingbird to ever be reported in Arkansas. It is usually found further west.
The hummingbird was at the home of a woman I know (she works with my mom, her kids were in school with me). She was really nice, and let me show up at 7:30 a.m. to look for it. It was funny, as she was telling me it may take a while for it to appear, the hummingbird appeared. I didn’t even have a chance to put down my bag before it showed. I still ended up staying 45 minutes to get better pictures. It was a nice trip.
I recently participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count in Jonesboro where another birder informed the group she had found an Eastern Screech Owl roosting in a tree just past the entrance of Lake Frierson State Park. Well, I had already left Jonesboro when I saw her email informing us of her find and the other birds she spotted so I couldn’t go take a look that day.
When I arrived back in town for Christmas Eve, I couldn’t resist heading to the state park to see if I could spot the owl. I didn’t think I would and I was actually leaving the park when I just happened to see the owl – right before I arrived back at the park’s entrance. Yay! The owl was very cooperative and in a tree just off the road.
It definitely helped kick off a great Christmas Eve.
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.