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: Swallowtail Kite

A Swallowtail Kite has been spotted flying above Interstate 440 North just outside of Little Rock. I was headed out of town when I heard the news. So, naturally, I had to swing by. I got lucky. Two others had arrived just before me so we all searched together. I was about to leave about 20 minutes later when it finally flew over the road ahead.

I see Mississippi Kites each year – a pair lives in my neighborhood. But this was the first Swallowtail Kite I have ever seen. They are usually found in the southeast along the coastal states, and while they are spotted in Arkansas, it is not as frequent. According to All About Birds, the Swallowtail Kite is called the “coolest bird on the planet.” (I disagree – I would reserve that title for hummingbirds 😁) These birds have a deeply forked tail along with a black and white plumage. They are usually found above swamps where they chase dragonflies, frogs, lizards, snakes and nestling birds. They migrate to South America for the winter.

Photos: Birds of the Past

Saw-Whet Owl Banding 01 at Ozark Natural Science Center 110815.JPG
Saw-Whet Owl

I was off work today (yay!), although my family still kept me busy most of the day. In my downtime, I continued going through photos on my computer to cut down the numbers. Here’s a few gems that I found and realized were not marked off my bird list as found.

Just FYI, the above one of a Saw-Whet Owl is my favorite. In 2015, I went to a banding workshop where a University of Arkansas student put out nets to catch and band Saw-Whet Owls. I was lucky – he caught and banded one the first night I went. I went to another banding workshop a few years later, although unfortunately no birds were caught that night. His work is pretty incredible. Saw whet owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America, and are one of the most common (and seldom seen) owls in forests across northern U.S. Arkansas is in the Saw-Whet Owl’s non-breeding range (although sightings are scarce). In Arkansas, only a dozen sightings were reported between 1959 and 2010 before the UA student and his professor captured and documented one in 2015.

Here’s some more finds from over the past few years:

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Horned Lark (Funny story – I was at my hometown’s Sonic with my parents one day when I looked out at the neighboring field and discovered Horned Larks all over the place. I was thrilled and it really tickled my Dad.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Scarlet Tanager

Photos: Lake Saracen

Tropical Kingbird1 122219 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
Tropical Kingbird

This past weekend, I traveled to Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff to search for the Tropical Kingbird that’s been spotted there for roughly the past two weeks. It’s rare to Arkansas, and more common to South America. I saw my first Tropical Kingbird earlier this year on my birding trip to Costa Rica.

Pine Bluff is a 45-minute trip from Little Rock. My first attempt to find the Tropical Kingbird was around noon Saturday. I was there for about an hour with no luck. It was later spotted about an hour after I left. I tried again on Sunday, arriving around 2 p.m. – the same time it was spotted the day before. This time, I immediately found the Tropical Kingbird sitting on a chain link fence near the park’s entrance. While it never vocalized, the Tropical Kingbird was very accommodating in letting me park near it to take pictures.

Below are some other birds spotted during the two trips:

Double-crested Cormorant2 122119 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
Double-crested Cormorant

Bufflehead3 122219 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
Bufflehead

Ruddy Duck 122119 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
Ruddy Duck

Belted Kingfisher1 122219 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
Belted Kingfisher

American Pelican 122119 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
American Pelican

Great Blue Heron1 122219 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
Great Blue Heron

Double-crested Cormorant 122219 Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff
Double-crested Cormorant

Photos: Little Rock CBC

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White-eyed Vireo (Russenberger Road)

This past Saturday, I participated in my first Christmas Bird Count held in Little Rock. It was pretty fun, and awesome in the fact that I got paired with one of the state’s best birders. I also visited some birding areas that I’ve never been to before. We found 59 different species in the eastern section of Little Rock that included the Arkansas Audubon Center and the nearby Gilliam Park. Here’s a few of the birds we saw:

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Winter Wren (Fourche Bottoms – Borrow Ponds)

House Wren 121419 LR CBC_Audubon Center
House Wren (Arkansas Audubon Center)

American Kestrel, Pileated Woodpecker 121419 LR CBC_Russenberger Road
Pileated Woodpecker, American Kestrel (Russenberger Road)

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Brown-headed Nuthatch (Russenberger Road)

Orange-crowned Warbler1 121419 LR CBC_Benny Craig Park
Orange-crowned Warbler (Benny Craig Park)

Tufted Titmouse2 121419 LR CBC_Russenberger Road
Tufted Titmouse (Russenberger Road)

Swamp Sparrow 121419 LR CBC_Russenberger Road
Swamp Sparrow (Russenberger Road)

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Pine Warbler (Fourche Bottoms – Borrow Ponds)

Eastern Towhee 121419 LR CBC_Russenberger Road
Eastern Towhee (Russenberger Road)

Green-winged Teal 121419 LR CBC_Fourche Bottoms_Borrow Ponds
Green-winged Teal (Fourche Bottoms – Borrow Ponds)

Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler 121419 LR CBC_Russenberger Road
Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler (Russenberger Road)

Double-crested Cormorant 121419 LR CBC_Fourche Bottoms_Borrow Ponds
Double-crested Cormorant (Fourche Bottoms – Borrow Ponds)

 

Photos: A Better View

American Kestral 111719 BKNWR.JPG

The American Kestrel is such a hard bird to photograph – it takes off any time I get too close. However, this one at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge showed no fear! Another first for me: this pair of Northern Harriers I found together.

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Northern Harrier2 111719 BKNWR.JPG

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Bald Knob NWR: Recent Finds

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Pectoral Sandpiper

Recently, I found several firsts at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge: the above Pectoral Sandpiper and the below Least Flycatcher.

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Least Flycatcher

However, these weren’t my only finds. See more below. 🙂

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American Avocet

Blue Grosbeak 090119 BKNWR
Blue Grosbeak

Great Blue Heron 090119 BKNWR
Great Blue Heron

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Ducks at Sunset

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Great Blue Heron

 

Photos: Bird Banding Station

I got to attend a bird banding station at Arkansas State University. They put up misting nets to catch various birds, then worked to measure and weigh the birds caught. There were several cool finds: American Redstart, Gray Catbird, Magnolia Warbler and Wilson’s Warbler.