Photos: Revisiting Old Stomping Grounds

Vesper Sparrow

On Monday, I got up early to visit the Stuttgart Municipal Airport in hopes of seeing Barn Owls. I didn’t spot the Barn Owls by their known roost, but I did find this Vesper Sparrow that was singing from a hiding spot within tall brush. I was searching for a while before I got lucky: the sparrow flew up to a nearby power line where I was able to get a good look at it.

Vesper Sparrows are typically found in Arkansas from late September through mid-May, according to eBird. According to All About Birds, they are often hidden from sight in grasslands and fields. There are two unique features on the streaky brown sparrow: a thin white eyeing and flashes white tail feathers inflight. It also has a small chestnut patch on the shoulder.

I also spotted a Say’s Phoebe, a rare find in Arkansas, although many have been spotted in the state recently. Another birder had spotted this bird at the airport a few days before me so I was curious to see if it was still hanging around. It was.

Say’s Phoebes are typically found more west of Arkansas. They differ from the common Eastern Phoebe in having a cinnamon-colored belly. Both phoebes are brownish gray above, although the Eastern Phoebe has a pale belly.

Besides visiting the airport, I also traveled to the nearby Bayo Meto Wildlife Management Area. Here are a few other birds I saw:

Ross Goose (left) and Snow Goose

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter

A white-winged Scoter was the first rare bird I have ever found. White-winged Scoters are large sea ducks that can hold their breath for a minute or more as they dive deep underwater for food. In the winter, they are found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They are typically found in the upmost part of the United States and most of northern Canada and Alaska.

My bird was found on February 9, 2014, at Craighead Forest Park. Interestingly, it was not the first white-winged scoter found in Arkansas that year. Several others were found across the state in Northwest Arkansas.

A day off

On Monday, I visited the Alma Water Treatment Plant to search for the rare Long-tailed Duck (above) that others had reported seeing there for several days. The plant was closed due to the holiday so I traveled the two hours hoping I could spot the bird from the road based off of the locations given by other birders. I started the trip off by spotting a Greater Roadrunner (below) while grabbing a drink at McDonalds in Conway so I felt pretty lucky.

Upon arriving at the Alma WTP, I immediately found my first American Pipit (pictured below). American Pipits are not rare to Arkansas – just me. All About Birds reports that they can be found in the state during the migratory and no breeding seasons. They are actually among the few American songbirds that nest in both Arctic tundra and alpine meadows.

I stayed for an hour looking among the various ducks for a white headed one. No luck. I was just preparing to leave when a fellow birder arrived. (Side note: this birder, who lives nearby, and I actually met on an international birding trip we both went on that was arranged by the Arkansas Audubon Society Trust.) Within minutes of her arrival, she took me to the corner she had spotted the bird in before and we immediately found the bird. Yes, I realize how lucky I am that she showed up when she did.

Long-tailed Ducks breed in the high Arctic and spend winters mostly along ocean coasts, according to AllAboutBirds.org. Fun fact: they are divers and can feed on small fish and invertebrates as deep as 200 feet. They actually spend 3-4 times as long underwater as on the surface.

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

Duck 090119 BKNWR
Ducks at Sunset

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Great Blue Heron

 

Photo essay: Hunting Blue-winged Teal

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Male and Female Blue-Winged Teal

My goal this winter was to photograph a Blue-Winged Teal duck. I finally got lucky in this quest during a trip to Bayou Meto’s Halowell Reservoir. I was pretty excited to see the ducks as well as a pair of Gadwells. The trip was bird-filled with a few favorites. Here’s some of what I saw:

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Male and Female Gadwell ducks

DUCKS3-Mallards
Mallards

DUCKS4-Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

DUCKS5-Mallards2

DUCKS6-American Coot
American Coot

DUCKS7-Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

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Song Sparrow

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Killdeer

Red-tailed hawk
Red-tailed hawk

My grandparents’ pond

Canvasbacks and a Redhead Duck on my grandparents' pond.
Canvasbacks and a Redhead Duck on my grandparents’ pond.

I wasn’t back home in Wynne long before my parents told me there were ducks on my grandparents’ pond. My grandparents live just a mile down the road from us so, of course, my parents had to drive down to show me.

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It was pretty cool — I am pretty sure they are Canvasbacks and a Redhead in the above picture while the below picture has Redheads with a Lesser Scaup.

Redheads Ducks with Lesser Scaup Duck.
Redheads Ducks with Lesser Scaup Duck.