The Mountain Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird (top) and Mountain Bluebird (bottom, right)
Eastern Bluebird (top, left) and Mountain Bluebird (bottom, right)

On Friday, word went out that a Mountain Bluebird was in Arkansas — the second sighting in Arkansas on the books. The Mountain Bluebird is pretty common on open woodlands  … in the west. But, Arkansas is just east of its range.

So, naturally, I went searching for it on Sunday. It was found in an open field off of Hwy. 113 in Oppelo and, at first, I went to the wrong location. I reached out on the Arkansas bird listserv and immediately got help in getting to the right location.

It was great timing — I immediately spotted the Mountain Bluebird resting in the grass just below an Eastern Bluebird. The only difference between the two is that the Eastern has a deeper blue with red chests. The Mountain Bluebird eventually moved closer to us. Here’s some other pictures:

Mountain Bluebird1
Mountain Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird
Male and female Eastern Bluebirds

Overtime = Owl.

Barred Owl
Barred Owl

Overtime. It’s a great word, especially since it allowed me to get out of the office early Thursday afternoon. Izzie and I headed to the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area to see what we could find. We got pretty lucky — the highlight of the trip was a Barred Owl (above). It was my first time to see one and, I must admit, March is turning out to be a great month for spotting owls!

Besides the owl, we also spotted Blue-winged Teal, Double-crested Cormorants, snow geese, sparrows, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinals and plenty of Wood Ducks. Here’s some pictures:

Wood Ducks
Wood Ducks
Double-crested Cormorant1
Double-crested Cormorant
Snow Geese
Snow Geese
Tufted Titmouse1
Tufted Titmouse
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I just love the color!
I also saw plenty of nutria. It's definitely mating season for these guys.
I also saw plenty of nutria. It’s definitely mating season for these guys. That’s all I’m going to say.

 

First day of spring

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Northern Cardinal

Spring, which officially starts today, is my favorite season. To celebrate, I spent my early Tuesday evening working in my backyard. OK, it was mostly lazy yard work. I cleaned up, made plans for a proposed project and put up new hummingbird feeders.

After I finished, I just happened to glance over in time to see a bird leaving my hummingbird feeder. I. Was. Excited! Could it be a hummingbird, already? Nope. I sat by my window for an hour watching house sparrows, northern cardinals and American robins come up to feed. I’m now positive that it was a sparrow that went to the wrong feeder.

Whatever happened, I enjoyed my time outdoors and watching the birds. It’s not a bad way to pass the time. Here’s some of my visitors:

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House Sparrow
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American Robin

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House Sparrows

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House Sparrow

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Northern Mockingbird

 

Short-eared Owls

Short-eared Owl1-0
Short-eared Owl

The Great Horned Owl sighting left me so excited that I decided to try spotting a second owl: The Short-eared Owl. The common open grasslands bird is a winter resident of the Stuttgart Municipal Airport. Past trips yielded no results so I finally got my hands on a map of where exactly to look and headed back out.

The trip lasted less than an hour and was a complete success. First, the trip started off on a great note when I discovered an airport employee was back at work after a long bout of illness. After signing in, I immediately stepped out of the airport’s office to find Northern Harriers, Killdeer and Red-winged Blackbirds.

My next stroke of luck came when the below-pictured plane took off, stirring up the owls. I counted about eight in all. According to the National Audubon Society, Short-eared Owls are in serious decline over much of its range with the primary threat being the destruction and degradation of open habitat. I think the owls are fascinating because you can find them easily throughout the day.

Short-eared Owl1-1

Short-eared Owl2

The Stuttgart Municipal Airport was originally prime farmland the U.S. government bought for an air force training site during WWII. After the war, the property was handed over to the City of Stuttgart for use as a municipal airport. Today, the military still uses the airport for training exercises.

The airport also remains busy with agricultural-, business- and hunting-related flights as well as birders. Audubon Arkansas and the City of Stuttgart previously started a 252 acre prairie restoration project for grassland birds. There are now prescribed fires, non-native plant control and rubble removal to benefit 13 prairie bird species of great conservation need. According to Audubon Arkansas, the project “continues a landmark collaborative working towards the long-term goal of a 2,000-acre core of contiguous native grassland suitable for the reintroduction of the Greater Prairie-Chicken to Arkansas.”

Short-eared Owl3

Short-eared Owl4

Short-eared owl5-not sure?
I ended the visit sighting an eastern meadowlark and this shorebird. I have no clue what it could be.

Photo essay: Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owl1

I finally saw my first owl. Well, actually it was three Great Horned Owls — a mother and two juveniles nesting near the top of a pine tree. I visited the area twice, taking pictures from across the street before I finally saw the first baby. I was pretty excited.

Great Horned Owls are common to the United States year-round. However, it was still my first time to clearly see an owl in the wild. I visited the nest mid-morning and late afternoon and, surprisingly, the mid-morning visit yielded the best results.

After the sighting, I had to go to allaboutbirds.org to read up on the Great Horned Owl. It was neat to learn that it is the “only animal that regularly eats skunks” and that they often take large prey, such as other owls, nesting Osprey and falcons.

The Great Horned Owl is also regularly harassed by flocks of American Crows that mob owls and “yell” at them for hours. According to allaboutbirds.org, “the enmity of the crows is well earned, however, as the owl is probably the most important predator on adult crows and nestlings.”

Here’s some more pictures of the Great Horned Owl nest:

Great Horned Owl2

Great Horned Owl3

Great Horned Owl4

Great Horned Owl5

Great horned Owl6

Great Horned Owl7

A wild turkey surprise

Wild Turkey1 (adult male southwestern)

I’ll admit I pass the hour driving to Arkansas’ state capital looking for birds. Typically, I’ll look for hawks, ducks and geese. I just never expected to add a Wild Turkey to the list!

I spotted this Wild Turkey, an adult male southwestern, earlier today near the only section of the trip that’s swampy. He was just walking along in the patch of grass between the road and the swamp like he had business to attend to in the small town that edges the swamp. It was random, but definitely worth the time to stop and take pictures.

Wild Turkey2

Canadians and Mallards

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Canadian Geese and Mallards were the main birds we saw Sunday and this morning. They basically had the run of our hotel and restaurant parking lots (which surrounded a small pond).

Most of our time was spent with family. My great-aunt lived a full life, and I was surprised to learn that she moved to France with her husband and small son in the late 1940s.

Her husband was stationed near a small village, and her son said the French did not like Americans even at the end of WW2. When his father worked nights, people would come bang on their windows throughout the night to scare them.

My great-aunt would also keep a pistol under her pillow just in case. Still, they weren’t too afraid. Her son said he could remember fetching fresh bread for his mother.

This is the same lady who happened to be in town when I was born. She was my “grandmother” so she could visit my mother and hold me.

We ended up having three hours of free time after the visitation so we visited Fort Harrison State Park.

It was a nice break and the park was fantastic. I could definitely see me using it as often as possible if I lived here.

It also had family history since my great aunt and her family were stationed at Fort Harrison before it became a state park.

On Sunday, the birds and a super fat squirrel greeted us at the cemetery. It was funny to see the geese surround us. I mean literally surround our car while we were leaving. There were even three geese on the roofs watching us.

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We’re now heading back to Arkansas. Just counting the hours until I can pick up my dog and be home out of the rain.

Reaching Indiana

We finally saw snow – discarded on the side of the road and sidewalks.

It’s 3:14 a.m. We’re finally in Indianapolis after an eight+ hour drive.

A death in the family spurred the last minute trip and, so far, we’ve seen about six deer, a bald eagle and an assortment of other birds.

Here’s some more quick pictures from the drive:

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All day birding

Lately, my days have been pretty bare of after hours, work-related events. I had to take advantage of my good luck by heading out to bird in Arkansas County and around Little Rock. It paid off — I rediscovered four state birds. The birds were House finches, a Brown-headed Nuthatch, the American Goldfinch, and Green-Winged Teal Ducks. The duck pictures aren’t the best since the ducks were practically on the other side of the lake. But hey, at least you can tell what they are. 🙂

Anyway, here’s my pictures of the birds plus sky pictures that I like:

1-House Finches, Brown-headed Nuthatch
House Finches and a Brown-headed Nuthatch
2-American Goldfinch1
American Goldfinch
4-Green-Winged Teal Duck1
Green-Winged Teal Duck
5-Green-winged Teal Duck2
Another look at the Green-winged Teal Duck
6-Bald Eagle, Juvenile
Juvenile Bald Eagle
7-Setting Sun2
Heading back into Little Rock

8-Night