Flicker-ing

Northern Flicker 020219

The Northern Flickers have been visiting my backyard for the past several weeks. This past weekend, they have started tapping on the sides (and a vent pipe) of my house. Talk about annoying – even if the birds are just plain beautiful.

Wapanocca NWR II

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting

My trek to Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge was a complete success in bird-terms. I have always wanted to see a Painted Bunting to see if they were as gorgeous as the Indigo Buntings. They are.

We started at the visitor’s center where an Indigo Bunting and a Prothonotary Warbler greeted us separately and walked down the gravel road for about a mile before half of us went back to get our cars. We ended up driving the rest of the way with plenty of stops to see the Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Palm Warblers, and a Pied-billed Grebe as we heard/saw the birds.

We ended up in an open field with a lot of tall grass and shrubbery where we saw the Painted Buntings and eventually at the observatory outlook to look at a Western Grebe through a scope. Not bad for a morning tour.

I ended up leaving at lunch to race back for a family function. Here’s another picture of the Indigo Bunting as well as pictures of other birds we saw:

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting
Solitary Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Pied-billed grebe
Pied-billed grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Belted Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Western Grebe
Western Grebe (a crappy picture, I know)
Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

 

Photo essay: Gigi & I

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds
Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

My grandmother, Gigi, and I share a love of birds. So, a hummingbird banding workshop was the perfecting outing for us to spend some time together. Luckily, the Saturday workshop was from 1-4 p.m. at the Potlatch Conservation Education Center in Casscoe, which gave me plenty of time to pick her up in Jonesboro and stop at Jack Ryan’s Convenience store to pick up some of their oh-so-good sandwiches for lunch.

I’ve been going to the workshop for three years now and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with it. There were no little kids this time so Gigi and I were both able to release a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird after they were banded. It was a pretty neat experience since the hummingbirds sat for a moment before flying off. Later, we drove down to the dock to see how high the White River was.

Here’s pictures:

Banding the first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
Banding the first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
Gigi releasing the first hummingbird.
Gigi releasing the first hummingbird, a male.
I got to release the last.
I got to release the last, a female who was also the rowdiest.
Close up of mine.
Close up of mine.
Cooks Lake-hummingbird3 6-15
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Cooks Lake-hummingbird1 6-15
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
This one was already banded.
This one was already banded.
Already banded.
Another look at the already-banded hummingbird.
Eastern Bluebird that posed as we headed down to the dock.
Eastern Bluebird that posed as we headed down to the dock.
The White River water level is pretty high right now.
The White River water level is pretty high right now.
The dock at the White River. We were still able to access the floating ramp.
The dock at the White River. We were still able to access the floating ramp.
We found this lady bug on the floating ramp along with ...
We found this lady bug on the floating ramp along with …
This Broad-headed Skink (lizard) and ...
This Broad-headed Skink (lizard) and …
This frog who jumped off the ramp as I approached.
This frog who jumped off the ramp as I approached.
We spent our trip back to Jonesboro look for any wildlife. We saw very few.
We spent our trip back to Jonesboro look for any wildlife. We saw very few.

It was a day well spent.

 

Photo: Its just a baby

Stuttgart-Baby Killdeer 6:23
Killdeer

I live just off of a busy highway so, when I walk, I typically head toward a nearby cemetery that neighbors a dirt road. The detour gets me away from the heavy traffic and is typically a peaceful route to walk. However, it has lately reminded me of a scene from The Birds with Killdeer replacing the blackbirds. I’ve noticed more Killdeer in this location this year than ever before and they definitely don’t like my presence.

I guess it’s a good thing I’ve been too lazy to walk lately. Last night, I ended up on the dirt road during my drive home and I passed the above baby Killdeer. His mother was just above the ditch and the baby just couldn’t find a way up. It was rejoined by a sibling just after I drove away.

 

Drumroll … New bird visitor at my home

I’ve lived in Stuttgart for three years this August. During this time, my main feathered visitors have been house sparrows, cardinals, doves, American robins and blackbirds. And, of course, the occasional cedar waxwing.

Now, I love having these constant birds. Don’t get me wrong, but I decided late last summer I wanted for more variety. And I finally took action after months of just thinking about it. I actually kept my feeders full, switching to a more fruitier blend to attract another variety of birds (which my usual crowd still likes) and put up my first hummingbird feeder.

The results were slow. I received my first hummingbird late last summer. This spring, I woke up to a rose-breasted grosbeak singing at my feeder. And I recently discovered the below American goldfinch. Today, I finally had what I believe was a House finch.

I see most of the birds first thing in the morning, around 7 to 7:30. And honestly, the finds are a great energy boost for my day. So, hopefully the birds will keep on visiting.

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IMG_3268

 

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:

Mountain Bluebird1
Mountain Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird
Male and female Eastern Bluebirds

First day of spring

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Northern Cardinal

Spring, which officially starts today, is my favorite season. To celebrate, I spent my early Tuesday evening working in my backyard. OK, it was mostly lazy yard work. I cleaned up, made plans for a proposed project and put up new hummingbird feeders.

After I finished, I just happened to glance over in time to see a bird leaving my hummingbird feeder. I. Was. Excited! Could it be a hummingbird, already? Nope. I sat by my window for an hour watching house sparrows, northern cardinals and American robins come up to feed. I’m now positive that it was a sparrow that went to the wrong feeder.

Whatever happened, I enjoyed my time outdoors and watching the birds. It’s not a bad way to pass the time. Here’s some of my visitors:

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House Sparrow
3
American Robin

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House Sparrows

5
House Sparrow

6
Northern Mockingbird

 

All day birding

Lately, my days have been pretty bare of after hours, work-related events. I had to take advantage of my good luck by heading out to bird in Arkansas County and around Little Rock. It paid off — I rediscovered four state birds. The birds were House finches, a Brown-headed Nuthatch, the American Goldfinch, and Green-Winged Teal Ducks. The duck pictures aren’t the best since the ducks were practically on the other side of the lake. But hey, at least you can tell what they are. 🙂

Anyway, here’s my pictures of the birds plus sky pictures that I like:

1-House Finches, Brown-headed Nuthatch
House Finches and a Brown-headed Nuthatch
2-American Goldfinch1
American Goldfinch
4-Green-Winged Teal Duck1
Green-Winged Teal Duck
5-Green-winged Teal Duck2
Another look at the Green-winged Teal Duck
6-Bald Eagle, Juvenile
Juvenile Bald Eagle
7-Setting Sun2
Heading back into Little Rock

8-Night

 

Photo essay: In search of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

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Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

A retired Arkansas National Heritage Commission employee was kind enough to take me and a fellow birder out to the commission’s Pine City Natural Area to find the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker.

We searched the western part of the Pine City Natural Area, which was created in 1988 and has 1,043.21 acres overall. According to the commission, it “provides vital habitat for the only known population of the federally endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain of Arkansas.”

1-2-5 trees2

The natural area also includes the “Lost Pine of Arkansas” — the loblolly pines. According to the commission, the pines are now an isolated population within the plain and, as a result, are now genetically distinct from the loblolly pines found elsewhere in the United States.

Mature southern pine forests are the main home to the Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers — one of the few bird species endemic to the United States, according to allaboutbirds.org. The birds’ “extreme habitat specificity and loss of breeding habitat” has since caused it to be listed as federally endangered.

State workers now help maintain this area to sustain the Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers’ population. The birds prefer longleaf pines, and only nest in cavities of  live pines.

The commission’s work includes placing wire around the bottom of trees with nests to keep snakes away and placing metal around the nests (below) to ensure other types of woodpeckers will not takeover the cavities.

2-2-5 roost1

According to allaboutbirds.org, trees infected with red heart fungus are often selected since the fungus softens the wood, allowing the woodpeckers to dig out a cavity. The live pine tree then leaks gum around the nest hole, helping to keep tree-climbing snakes away from the nest.

The woodpeckers live in small family groups with only one breeding pair. The area we visited had about 10-15 woodpeckers living there. The commission had marked each tree with nests, and we even found an additional tree (below) that was not yet marked.

3-2-5 roost2

We arrived about 4 p.m. to walk the area, find the nests and get in place for when the woodpeckers arrived. Apparently, the woodpeckers leave their nests just after dawn, have a morning rally of sorts and then head out to forage for food as far as a mile away. They head back to the nest around sunset.

5-2-5 pileated woodpecker

The first bird we saw was the above pictured Pileated Woodpecker, which our guide was delighted to see flying in the opposite direction. Apparently the Pileated Woodpecker wreaks damage on the Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers’ home.

Eventually, the first round of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers arrived.

6-2-5 wp back

The five to six Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers called out to each other, climbed up and down the trees with nests, and finally swooped into their nests for the night.

Their arrival, greeting and turn-in for the night was actually pretty quick. We decided to stay there a little longer just to be sure they wouldn’t come out again. For the next 20 minutes, all we heard were geese and more geese.

7-2-5 geese

We were about to head back to the car when we heard a second group of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers arrive. Thankfully, there were no geese overhead. This group stayed out for a while, allowing us to get a pretty good glimpse of them.

8-IMG_5560

Our guide kept a record of how many birds we saw, the time they arrived and the time they went to bed to give to his old coworkers. He plans to update them on the unmarked tree we found as well as information about which birds. Most of the birds are banded — you can see the band in the above picture.

It was also interesting to learn that the commission does occasionally relocate one of these of woodpeckers to other nearby colonies, such as in Louisiana or Texas. In the past, woodpeckers were taken from these sites to help populate the Arkansas colonies.

If one of the birds are relocated, our guide said its done while the birds are young to help them adjust better to their new home. These birds are taken after they arrive home to nest at night. Workers place a soft cage next to the cavity, lightly scratch the bark and then close the door once the bird flies into the cage. The bird is then driven all night to be placed in its new nest before dawn.

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We ended up spending three hours at the Pine City Natural Area. It was fascinating — I really enjoyed the visit, which ended with a splash. I was crossing a ditch when my left foot sank deeply in mud.

For a second or two, I figured the Pine City Natural Area would gain a left boot. I was luckily able to get de-mudded without getting too wet. My boots were about knee-high and the water came to just about an inch below the top of the boots. I ended up having only my left sleeve wet. Not bad at all!