I spent New Year’s Day participating in the Christmas Bird Count for Lake Dardanelle. It was my first time scouting my particular section, but it was fun, albeit foggy. My most exciting find: A Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was the only one spotted during the count, although the gull has been seen in the area for the past few days.
This particular gull is a first winter with its checkered brown and white body and black bill. AllAboutBirds.org reports that the Lesser Black-backed Gull is common in Eurasia and was once a great rarity in North America; however, it is now becoming relatively common as a winter guest along the eastern coastline even though nesting here has yet to be confirmed. Its range map includes Arkansas in its nonbreeding (scarce) zone. According to eBird, we’ve had a sighting every year since 2016 in the state.
Arkansas’ latest rare birds are 15 Red Crossbills that are making the Fayetteville Country Club their home. A fellow birder and I decided to head that way today to find them.
We luckily ran into two experienced birders at the country club who let us tag along with them. One was great at calling birds and we ended up finding a native Red- Breasted Nuthatch and a Brown Creeper.
We mainly stayed near pine trees since Red Crossbills (found in northern and western United States) love to cling to pine cones and extract the cones’ seeds. We were only there for a short while before, luckily, other birders at the course found them for us. In the past, other birders said they searched for two-to-three hours before finally discovering them.
Anyway, we joined a small group to look at the three Red Crossbills that were noisily eating away. It was so fascinating that none of us figured out that there were 12 more Red Crossbills in the tree next to us.
We finally figured it out when all 15 — seven males and eight females — flew to a nearby tree. It was actually a better location since the tree had no leaves. They flew to a third tree that was even better to photograph them in before finally diving down to the pond for a drink of water.
It was definitely a sight worth seeing except for when they finally flew off after taking a drink. I thought two Red Crossbills were going to take me out as they flew past. Luckily, they just missed my face.
We didn’t stay in Fayetteville afterwards. We drove straight back home with a detour to Lake Dardenelle. A couple, who has birded for more than 20 years, invited us to their cabin to see all the birds that flock to the lake.
And, boy, did we get lucky. The couple pulled out their scope and we were able to view (and unfortunately not get pictures of) a Western Grebe, a Pacific Loon and a Lesser Black-Backed Gull, all rare.
We were also able to view the more common species like a Horned Grebe, a Common Loon, a Pied-Billed Grebe, a Common Golden-Eye, Snow Geese, Ring-Billed Gulls and American Pelicans.
The only picture I was able to take was of the Ring-Billed Gulls.
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.