Starting 2022 off right with birding

I started 2022 off with a birding trip around west Little Rock on Sunday. It went pretty well 30 species spotted so far this year. Here’s a few of my favorites:

I also found four deer – one of which was a buck – that were not spooked by humans at all. For a moment, I thought they would walk right up to me.

Photos: A Morning Hike

Osprey

Earlier this week, I took advantage of a free morning to take a hike on a new, roughly 2.5-mile trail off Lake Maumelle. Not only was the hike relaxing, there were tons of birds singing along the way. My most exciting find wasn’t actually on the trail but soaring above it. I happened to look up just as the above pictured Osprey was circling above. I’ve never actually seen an Osprey in Arkansas, although these hawks are pretty common in central part of the state. I actually thought this one was a Mississippi Kite until I took a photograph and zoomed in closer to take a better look.

While the Osprey was a first for me, I also enjoyed practicing my bird call recognition. I’ve started using the sound ID section of the Cornell Lab’s Merlin Bird ID app. While it has listed a few birds as calling that I know are not found in Arkansas, the sound ID app has correctly ID’d quite a few birds that I didn’t recognize the calls of. Two such birds on this trip were the White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Vireo.

White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo

The above-pictured Yellow-throated Vireo is actually the third one of its species that I have seen period. I found all three Yellow-throated Vireos within the past week – all thanks to the app’s Sound ID. I would record bird calls, the app would ID the bird call correctly as the Yellow-throated Vireo, and the bird would then respond when I played callbacks (each one has come out in the open, allowing me to get a picture). It’s pretty exciting. The Yellow-throated Vireo may be one of the most colorful members of the vireo family, but it can blend it pretty darn well.

Here’s a few other birds I saw along the trail:

White-breasted Nuthatch
Summer Tanager
Red-headed Woodpecker
juvenile Red-Headed Woodpecker
Pine Warbler

Surprising find: Soras

Sora

I was taking a photo of a Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs (pictured at the bottom of the above photo) when a Sora casually walked out of the rice and began walking around. I definitely wasn’t expecting that to happen. I was snapping photos when, all of a sudden, a second one appears.

Soras are a secretive marsh bird that can be found throughout the United States at various points in the year, according to AllAboutBirds.org. They can be found in Arkansas during migration season. However, they aren’t expected to be sighted at the moment in Arkansas.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

I was waiting for food to be delivered to my car when I happened to spot several birds flying overhead. Since it was nighttime, it kind of threw me off. Those birds turned out to be Common Nighthawks. A swarm of them – eight in total – flew overhead, catching flying insects drawn to the nearby street lights.

Common Nighthawks roost during the day, and can typically be found in the early mornings and evenings. According to Arkansas bird experts, I likely caught a migrating group as they passed through Little Rock. I best recognized the birds by the white patch close to the bend of their wings.

Magnificent Frigatebirds

Magnificent Frigatebird

Seven Magnificent Frigatebirds have been found in Arkansas as Hurricane Ida continues to head through. Magnificent Frigatebirds are large seabirds that skim fish from the surface of the water or chase other birds to steal food. They are typically founding around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. I wasn’t taking any chances of missing them so I took off to find them at Lake Grand in Chicot County. I got lucky.

Despite it being a cloudy and rainy day, there were quite a few birds, like the below Bank Swallows, to be found. I also got lucky and found four rare White-winged Doves as well. White-winged Doves are typically found in desert habitat in the Southwest and in cities and suburbs of Texas and the coastal Southeast, according to AllAboutBirds.org. They have been turning up in Arkansas more and more.

White-winged Doves
Bank Swallow

Fish Crow

Fish Crow

There are two types of crows – the American and the Fish. They look alike so they way to tell them apart is by their call. It’s easy to hear and then photograph the American Crow. Not so much the Fish Crow, but I was finally able to do so recently at the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge.

Snowed in

“You’re in my spot!” American Goldfinch, Pine Warbler

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:

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker
Eastern Bluebird
Northern Flicker
European Starling
Northern Cardinal

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.

Correctly identifying a Purple Finch

I finally photographed a Purple Finch.

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.

Winter of Rare Hummingbirds

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!