A Short-billed Gull

Yesterday, a Short-billed Gull (previously called a Mew Gull until 2021) was spotted at Lake Dardanelle. It’s the small-ish gull standing alone near the middle of the photo with a slightly darker gray back, round head, yellow bill and dark eye.

This gull had birders in a tizzy today – the gull is typically found along the western coastline of the USA, and I’m told these gull rarely travel to the rest of the nation. I arrived at 10:30 a.m. to a flock of people with scopes looking for this sole gull in over 5,000 Ring-billed gulls (the other gulls in the photo). If you are thinking yikes – you said it. It was mind-numbing and basically impossible for me. Luckily, the original spotter was kind enough to spend most of the afternoon with me searching for it. He and his wife were actually the ones who spotted it for me.

Duck Hunt: Common Merganser

I traveled to Siloam Springs yesterday to find Common Mergansers that were reported on the Siloam Springs City Lake Park. The rare birds were spotted by the boat launch days before, and birders had reported them still being there each day. I quickly spotted them in the distance upon arrival but lost them when I drove around the lake to get a better look.

So, I decided to check out the rest of the city park. They have a pretty cool duck blind set up so people can quietly enter and watch the water birds. It was definitely worth the stop – I saw plenty of ducks, cormorants, sparrows, pied-billed grebes and the Common Mergansers. The Common Mergansers actually flew in and landed right in front of the blind, providing me a perfect look at them even without my camera.

The nonbreeding range for the Common Merganser just dips into the North-Northwest area of Arkansas, although we don’t see them often. eBird reports 356 observations of the species, although I suspect many of those are recent with this sighting. They’ve been spotted within the state from October to May.

Photos: Revisiting Wapanocca NWR

I used to visit Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge each year when I visited my aunt living in Marion. I loved visiting the refuge; however, those visits slowly stopped after my aunt moved, first, to Jonesboro, then to Little Rock to live with me.

On Saturday, I was in the area so I made a pit stop. It was a good visit. Here are some highlights:

Photos: Barn Owls

The Barn owl has always been one of the top birds that I wanted to see in Arkansas. I finally got the chance yesterday. A birder was gracious enough to take me out to the barn where this pair roosts and nests. They have actually called this barn home for years.

My Dad said a pair of Barn Owls used to nest in a family barn when he was growing up, and he and his siblings used to talk about going to the barn to see the pair and their young. I think hearing those stories is one of the reasons I always wanted to see one myself.

Barn Owls are native to the United States and can be found across the nation. However, it is not common to see one. They hunt at night and sleep during the day. Plus, in some parts of the nation, their numbers are declining due to habitat loss. They require large areas of open land to hunt in – whether it is marsh, grasslands or mixed agricultural fields, according to AllAboutBirds.org. They nest and roost in quiet cavities such as in tress or man-made structures like this barn.

According to AllAboutBirds.org, the Northern American Barn Owl is the largest of the 46 difference races of the Barn Owl found worldwide. The North American Barn Owl weighs more than twice as much as the smallest race from the Galápagos Islands. In the photos, the darker, larger owl is the female. The females tend to be more reddish with more spots on its chest.