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.
They say whatever you do on the first day of a new year is what you will be doing a lot for the remainder of the year. I took this advice to heart and decided to take a morning walk and bird. I first visited the arboretum trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
Then, I visited a nearby old bridge that is no longer in use and is part of the Ouachita Trail area. The trip was a success. Not only was it a peaceful and happy trip, but I found plenty of birds. Here are a few photos from my trip.
I arrived home to find our feeders and front yard full of birds. 🐦 We even had a surprise visitor – a Cooper’s Hawk – that stayed quite a while, scaring off all of our other birds. Luckily, no birds were harmed during this visit. He eventually left, meaning all of our others slowly, hesitantly came back.
Earlier this month, I saw my first Broad-tailed Hummingbird in Wynne. The immature male is the fifth Broad-tailed Hummingbird to ever be reported in Arkansas. It is usually found further west.
The hummingbird was at the home of a woman I know (she works with my mom, her kids were in school with me). She was really nice, and let me show up at 7:30 a.m. to look for it. It was funny, as she was telling me it may take a while for it to appear, the hummingbird appeared. I didn’t even have a chance to put down my bag before it showed. I still ended up staying 45 minutes to get better pictures. It was a nice trip.
I recently participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count in Jonesboro where another birder informed the group she had found an Eastern Screech Owl roosting in a tree just past the entrance of Lake Frierson State Park. Well, I had already left Jonesboro when I saw her email informing us of her find and the other birds she spotted so I couldn’t go take a look that day.
When I arrived back in town for Christmas Eve, I couldn’t resist heading to the state park to see if I could spot the owl. I didn’t think I would and I was actually leaving the park when I just happened to see the owl – right before I arrived back at the park’s entrance. Yay! The owl was very cooperative and in a tree just off the road.
It definitely helped kick off a great Christmas Eve.
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.
It’s been a fun several weeks watching birds. We’ve had both Baltimore Orioles and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at our feeders – and each time one appears we fangirl over them like it’s the first time they’ve appeared. I was excited to find a few others out in the area, such as the below Red-eyed Vireo.
This weekend, I visited Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge and, OH MY GOSH, it was a FANTASTIC weekend. I recorded a record number of birds in eBird that included some firsts for me. Here are my highlights:
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:
On Saturday, some family members and I traveled to Heber Springs to see the trumpeter swans at Magness Lake and two nearby lakes. It was a success – we saw roughly 200 or more! Trumpeter swans, once endangered, are the largest waterfowl species in North America, according toallaboutbirds.org.
All of the lakes we found trumpeter swans at are on private property. But, the property owners are kind enough to let people visit the lakes to see the swans and other ducks, geese, and birds that are there. Each lake had a gravel parking lot, and feeders or bags of corn out for people to feed the swans.
Magness Lake, itself, is owned and fully funded by the family of Larry Glenn and Patti Winemiller Eason. It is the easiest lake to find and the family has even placed out signs welcoming people to the lake as well as explaining the rules and history of the swans. According to the family, the swans were first reported in the area in winter 1992 and have since returned each year, bringing more each time. The original three swans have now grown to 200-300 swans visiting.
We wrapped up the trip with a stop at Peggy Sue’s Place for lunch. While they don’t accept debit/credit cards, they did serve a great meal! Of everyone’s lunches, I especially enjoyed the chicken fried steak, side salad, fried squash and all of the desserts!
Here are some another photo I like, as well as one of a Ross Goose.
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:
I previously worked as a news and sports photographer. Recently I have been enjoying wildlife photography. My approach toward bird photos is similar to sports photography. I attempt to capture mostly action and hopefully a unique perspective.