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.

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!

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Earlier this week, an immature Black-chinned Hummingbird was reported to be in Austin, Ark. Today was the first day I could make the about 30 minute trip. I got lucky: the owners were gracious and let me visit, the weather was nice and the hummingbird was very active. It came to the feeder within five minutes of my arrival.

This was my first time to see a Black-chinned Hummingbird in Arkansas. This species (the male has an iridescent purple throat) is typically found further west, although AllAboutBirds.org reports more are starting to pass through the southeast and winter along the Gulf coast than was once believed. Most winter in western Mexico. For this specific hummingbird, the homeowners told me they just happened to spot it at one of their bushes that currently has yellow flowers blooming. They were quick to put up a feeder once they realized it was definitely a hummingbird in their backyard. A retired couple who travels and birdwatches later confirmed it was a rare species to Arkansas.

Visiting Rattlesnake Ridge

Winter Wren

I recently visited Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area for the first time. Located just west of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Rattlesnake Ridge consists of 373 acres in the Ouachita Mountains and the ridge is the watershed divide between the Big Maumelle and Little Maumelle rivers.

It is also home to three species of state conservation concern: the southeastern bat, the western diamondback rattlesnake and the Wright’s cliffbrake, a western desert fern. While I didn’t spot any of the above species, I did photograph my second Winter Wren. The only downside to my hike: I didn’t have enough time to hike to the top of the ridge.

Eastern Phoebe
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red-breasted Nuthatch

PHOTOS: A Fork-tailed Flycatcher

A Fork-tailed Flycatcher – only the second of its kind documented in Arkansas – has been spotted in Desha County. Fork-tailed Flycatchers are typically found along the Atlantic Coast and migrate from southern South America. They can be found in savanna’s, grasslands and other open country with scattered bushes and trees, according to eBird. The one in Arkansas has been hanging out around a bridge over Boggy Bayou. It is an agricultural area with a paper manufacturing plant nearby. While I was there, the bird was easy to spot and, even when it flew away, it returned to the same trees. Others said it perched on a power line although it never did while I was there. Here’s some more photos (plus some of other birds I love):

Northern Flicker
Pied-billed Grebe
Carolina Chickadee

Adding a little color to the day

Today, I traveled to Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge to see the 10 Roseate Spoonbills that’s been reported there for the past several days. While they are typically found along the coast in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, it is starting to not be unusual to have at least one spoonbill found in Arkansas each year. Besides the spoonbills, I also found the below Stilt Sandpiper nearby.