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’ve been heavily birding the past few weekends to take advantage of the birds passing through Arkansas. And I’ve gotten lucky with my sightings so far. This past weekend, a Lark Bunting was spotted in Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. Luckily, I was able to head that way about an hour or two after it was first reported. Boy, am I glad I headed that way. I went back the next morning and the bird could not be refound.
Lark Buntings are not common for Arkansas, but more to the mid-west of us. Think Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and moving up from there to parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Canada during the breeding season. Nonbreeding season is spent in Central Arkansas and parts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Here are a few other birds – and animals – I was excited to find:
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.