I ended 2012 with an owl search on my grandparents’ farm. The search was a failure, but at least I found these birds on the second to last day of the year.
Arkansas’ latest rare birds are 15 Red Crossbills that are making the Fayetteville Country Club their home. A fellow birder and I decided to head that way today to find them.
We luckily ran into two experienced birders at the country club who let us tag along with them. One was great at calling birds and we ended up finding a native Red- Breasted Nuthatch and a Brown Creeper.
We mainly stayed near pine trees since Red Crossbills (found in northern and western United States) love to cling to pine cones and extract the cones’ seeds. We were only there for a short while before, luckily, other birders at the course found them for us. In the past, other birders said they searched for two-to-three hours before finally discovering them.
Anyway, we joined a small group to look at the three Red Crossbills that were noisily eating away. It was so fascinating that none of us figured out that there were 12 more Red Crossbills in the tree next to us.
We finally figured it out when all 15 — seven males and eight females — flew to a nearby tree. It was actually a better location since the tree had no leaves. They flew to a third tree that was even better to photograph them in before finally diving down to the pond for a drink of water.
It was definitely a sight worth seeing except for when they finally flew off after taking a drink. I thought two Red Crossbills were going to take me out as they flew past. Luckily, they just missed my face.
We didn’t stay in Fayetteville afterwards. We drove straight back home with a detour to Lake Dardenelle. A couple, who has birded for more than 20 years, invited us to their cabin to see all the birds that flock to the lake.
And, boy, did we get lucky. The couple pulled out their scope and we were able to view (and unfortunately not get pictures of) a Western Grebe, a Pacific Loon and a Lesser Black-Backed Gull, all rare.
We were also able to view the more common species like a Horned Grebe, a Common Loon, a Pied-Billed Grebe, a Common Golden-Eye, Snow Geese, Ring-Billed Gulls and American Pelicans.
The only picture I was able to take was of the Ring-Billed Gulls.
In late November, I visited a DeWitt golf course to view my first Vermilion Flycatcher, a female that strayed from the species’ more common home in southwest United States. Today, I was lucky to view its counterpart, a male Vermilion Flycatcher in Stuttgart. It’s the second year for a male to be spotted at the Stuttgart Municipal Airport. He was easy to spot and it was like he was preening for us. What a beautiful bird! And while I was there I even saw two other types of birds!
My favorite activity in Portland occurred on our last night in town. We attended the Festival of Lights at the Grotto. First of all, we got lost heading to the event so we ended up getting there an hour later than usual. We were still a little lost once we got on the bus, but the driver was super nice and dropped us off right in front of the Grotto.
The Festival of Lights has more than 500,000 lights, nightly choral performances, a petting zoo, carolers, wacky puppet shows and AH-MAZING hot chocolate (this helped since it was rainy and cold).
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine and botanical garden and the lights were woven around the entrance to give you a interesting view as you walked to the sanctuary and Our Lady’s Grotto, which has a life-size marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta at the center of a rock cave at the base of a 110-foot cliff.
Here’s some pictures of the event:
Our next stop was across from the zoo in the Hoyt Arboretum. The Garden of Solace is dedicated to the 57,000 Oregon men and women who served in Vietnam from 1959 to 1976.
It was a peaceful area and I loved the quote on the memorial — “So long as we are not forgotten we do not die. And thus this garden is a place of life.”