Let it snow.

I hung a “Let it snow” garden flag in my yard this winter because, well, it was cute.

I regret that decision. Why? I tempted the fates. See below:

OK, to be honest, I still love the flag. It’s really cute. I also love snow. It looks pretty as well.

I just don’t like driving in it. So wish me luck in driving to work tomorrow. Hope you all keep safe and warm as well.

Wapanocca NWR I

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My aunt has lived in Marion since I was a little girl. My sister and I would stay with her to make cookies at Christmastime and to visit the Memphis Zoo. I have tons of memories of visiting her house, however, none of them include Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in Turrell.

Wapanocca is about 15 minutes north of her house and, apparently has a long history with my family. My grandmother and dad both visited the refuge from time to time. I was just introduced this year.

Previously the site of the Wapanocca Outing Club (a hunting club), the 5,485-acre refuge was established in 1961 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl and consists of mainly agricultural land, bottomland hardwood forest, reforested hardwoods, open water and flooded cypress/willow swamp.

My first visit there was with fellow birders. I spent the night with my aunt and slowly made my way to the refuge to meet the others. I knew it was going to be a great trip when I spotted the below coyotes (oddly, my first viewing) just outside of the refuge.

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Coyotes

Here’s some more of my non-bird sighting:

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Photo essay: Freshwater pearl stringing

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Arkansas Freshwater Pearls. The little beauties brought me to Jacksonport State Park where I attended a pearl-stringing workshop with my  mother and two aunts. Jacksonport is located on the White River in Newport with a rich history tied with the Civil War. It was the former Jackson County seat and was overrun with Union soldiers in 1962. It was eventually recaptured by the Confederate.

Still, trouble persisted in the once vibrant community after the war. The community built the above $80,000 courthouse in 1872 but refused the Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad’s request for a land grant. It eventually went to Newport aiding that town’s growth instead. A fire would then burn 12 businesses with homes followed by a flood ruining more.

In 1892, the county seat moved to Newport with the courthouse standing empty for years. According to the state park, it became home to a number of community operations and businesses over the years starting with a public school. It later housed, at separate times, a cotton gin, a poorhouse, a granary and eventually wild animals.

The Jackson County Historical Society purchased it in 1962 to refurbish it and it now houses the community’s history including artifacts from its pearl-diving heritage.

It was in the late 1980s that pearls were discovered. According to the state park, the pearls were worn by the Indians as beads  and locals scoured the White River for as many as they could find. A button factory opened in Newport with locals providing the mussel shells.

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What’s interesting is how residents looked for the freshwater mussels holding the pearls. Arkansans know a thing or two about making do with what you have. People would use garden hoses to breathe through while under water along with diving helmets (above) made out of old fire extinguishers, hot water tanks and even an old torpedo casing (according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas). The discovered pearls fetched about $10 each during the depression era, which was about a week’s worth of wage.

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We didn’t use local pearls for our pearl-stringing workshop. We discussed the community’s history with freshwater pearls before heading upstairs to our work station.

For our necklaces (or in my case bracelet), we used a 12×7 mm filigree oval fish hook clasp; white lotus cultured pearls; size E white silk thread; flexible beading needles, a metal yard stick, needle nose pliers, and scissors. It was also extremely handy to have two experienced park rangers on hand to correct our mistakes. We were among the first to arrive and the last to go (by 30 minutes).

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Luckily, the park rangers had a cheat sheet for us explaining each of the 13 steps. The steps, as written, are:

STEP 1: The first being to determine the length of the necklace we wanted;

STEP 2: Cutting the length of thread 4-times the determined finished length. Size E silk thread.

STEP 3: Thread your needle. At the end of the threads, tie an overhand knot, securing the two ends together;

STEP 4: Thread on two beads and the clasp. Slide them down toward the knot.

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STEP 5: Pass the needle back through the bead closest to the clasp.

STEP 6: Pull the working thread until the clasp is snug against the first bead and 1″ of thread remains between the first and second bead. Tie an overhead knot using the tail end and the working thread. Pull the knot tight so it rests against the pearl closest to the clasp.

STEP 7: Pass the working thread through the second bead then slide it against the first knot.

STEP 8: Make an overhead knot using the tail thread and working thread. Slip the knot over the nail. Work the knot while it’s still on the nail down to the bead. Then slowly work the knot off the nail and using your fingernails to push the knot tight against the pearl. Try not to tighten the knot until it’s touching the pearl.

STEP 9: Thread on the rest of  your beads. (Optional — put the pearls on 2-3 at a time) Space the beads 8-10″ from the beads that are already knotted. Slide the bead next in line up against the last knot. Repeat Step 8 until placed knots between all of the beads except for the last two.

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STEP 10: Thread the other piece of the clasp onto the working thread. Bring the thread back through the last strung brad. Pull the thread so the beads are tight against the clasp.

STEP 11: Tie a half-hitch knot between the last two beads. Pull tight.

STEP 12: Bring the working thread through the second to last bead.

STEP 13: Trim the thread on both ends of the necklace (or bracelet). Optional: Apply glue to the first knot on both ends.

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The above is my finished project — yes, I was too lazy to make a full necklace. It still turned out great with one exception. It was too large (see below).

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I spent a good while reworking the clasp before handing it over first to a park ranger to fix and eventually my mother. My mother was the one to finally correct my overlarge bracelet. And it looks great! 🙂 I ended up finishing first so I toured the upstairs courtroom. Below, are more pictures:

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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:

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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:

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Wood Ducks
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Double-crested Cormorant
Snow Geese
Snow Geese
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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.