New visitors

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

A strange chirping woke me up this morning. It was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak — a first at my house. However, he wasn’t alone. It was joined by another first, three White-crowned Sparrows, and eventually a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The sparrows and hummingbird returned throughout the day. Not a bad start to the week.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

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.

Ending on a high note

A joint church choir sings during "The Messiah."

My favorite part of being a journalist is that it forces me to attend events that I normally wouldn’t attend otherwise. I usually end up enjoying myself immensely, and last night was no different. I attended “The Messiah” composed by George Fredric Handel at First United Methodist Church.

The Arts Center of the Grand Prairie’s Lennox Performing Arts Series, Grand Avenue United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church presented the event that had Charles Law conducting 21 pieces with a joint church choir as well as soloists Melissa Thoma, DeWitt native Satia Spencer, DeWitt resident Jess Essex, and Mark Wyers. Musicians were Kiril Laskarov on violin I, Beth Massa on violin II, Joe Joyner on viola, Casey Buck on cello and Amy Law (not pictured) on organ.

The church, already perfect with its beauty and calming atmosphere, was a great setting for the event with its lighted candles and Christmas tree.