As I headed to Northeast Arkansas on Friday, I made a quick pitstop at the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. High waters kept me on the south side of Huntsman Road near Safely Road, and limited time prevented me from entering on Coal Chute Road. Still, it was a fun trip – here’s some of what I found:
March 20 is in 17 days. It is the start of spring and my favorite months of the year. I love flowers, the wildlife and burst of activity that happens. I’m already looking for things to do, which includes visiting Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I was going through photos today, and stumbled across these photos from my first visit to Crystal Bridges in July 2017.
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.
I hate cooking. I’ll just let that be known from the start.
With that in mind, it wasn’t really that hard for me to decide to eat out last night and to choose my favorite fast-food place: Subway. It turned out to be a great decision.
Not only did I have a great meal, but I also found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It was sitting on a pole just as I got back in my car. Naturally, I had to get closer. I ended up feeling like a stalker as I drove around the parking lot of Subway and a next-door gas station to get a better picture.
Still, I got my picture. All’s well that ends well (at least in this case).
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:
- Short-eared Owls (memosforme.wordpress.com)
- Photo essay: Great Horned Owls (memosforme.wordpress.com)
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.
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.”
Canadian Geese and Mallards were the main birds we saw Sunday and this morning. They basically had the run of our hotel and restaurant parking lots (which surrounded a small pond).
Most of our time was spent with family. My great-aunt lived a full life, and I was surprised to learn that she moved to France with her husband and small son in the late 1940s.
Her husband was stationed near a small village, and her son said the French did not like Americans even at the end of WW2. When his father worked nights, people would come bang on their windows throughout the night to scare them.
My great-aunt would also keep a pistol under her pillow just in case. Still, they weren’t too afraid. Her son said he could remember fetching fresh bread for his mother.
This is the same lady who happened to be in town when I was born. She was my “grandmother” so she could visit my mother and hold me.
We ended up having three hours of free time after the visitation so we visited Fort Harrison State Park.
It was a nice break and the park was fantastic. I could definitely see me using it as often as possible if I lived here.
It also had family history since my great aunt and her family were stationed at Fort Harrison before it became a state park.
On Sunday, the birds and a super fat squirrel greeted us at the cemetery. It was funny to see the geese surround us. I mean literally surround our car while we were leaving. There were even three geese on the roofs watching us.
We’re now heading back to Arkansas. Just counting the hours until I can pick up my dog and be home out of the rain.