Short-eared Owls

Short-eared Owl1-0
Short-eared Owl

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.

Short-eared Owl1-1

Short-eared Owl2

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.”

Short-eared Owl3

Short-eared Owl4

Short-eared owl5-not sure?
I ended the visit sighting an eastern meadowlark and this shorebird. I have no clue what it could be.

Photo essay: 1st CBC

Golden-Crowned Kinglet
Golden-Crowned Kinglet

I participated in my very first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) Saturday. It was pretty fun, especially since it allowed me to tour the restricted areas of the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

My group did not discover any rare or unusual birds, however, I was able to view two firsts for me: The Golden-Crowned Kinglet and Wild Turkeys. We also viewed thousands of Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy ducks, and geese in the refuge’s sanctuary.

Here’s some more pictures from the day:

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey
1-5 (3) Bamboo
Bamboo, an invasive species that is spreading on the refuge.
1-5 (4) Mallards, Ross, Snow and Speckled Bellies Geese2
There were plenty of Mallards as well as Ross, Snow and Speckled Bellied Geese.
1-5 (5) Mallards, Ross, Snow and Speckled Bellies Geese1
There were plenty of Mallards as well as Ross, Snow and Speckled Bellied Geese.
White-Throated Sparrow
White-Throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow — I saw plenty at the refuge, however, this particular one was at the Stuttgart airport late Saturday afternoon.