I recently stopped at a Prescott truck stop in southwest Arkansas, and found Great-tailed Grackles. These blackbirds are beautiful with sharp yellow eyes, black bills and legs, and a super long tail. Their feathers are iridescent.
Great-tailed Grackles are not as common in Arkansas, although they can be found year-round in the western part of the state near the border by Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
I was trying to decide how to spend the day when I opened an email about a rare hummingbird in Arkansas. Decision made.
A Mexican Violetear was spotted in Eureka Springs for four days – I saw it on Day 4. These hummingbirds are larger than the state’s more common Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and is bright green with a dark violet cheek and breast patches. They are typically found in Mexico and Nicaragua, although it has been found across the United States over the years. After the Arkansas visitor was found, another one was reported in Oklahoma (more experienced birders than me speculate they are different ones due to coloring).
Either way, the Eureka Springs hummingbird was a beautiful sight although a little skittish and fast moving for good photo taking (at least for me). But, it was definitely a great sighting and trip.
I’ve always wanted to see a Snowy Owl. It was the #1 bird on my birds-to-see list. I finally got the chance earlier this month. A pair of Snowy Owls visited a farm in Northeast Arkansas. During my visit, the pair were in different fields separated by a county road. I could see both where I was parked, although one was further from the road than the other.
Snowy Owls are the largest North American owl by weight. According to allaboutbirds.org, they spend summers far north of the Arctic Circle. Some might migrate in the winter to southern Canada and the very northern parts of the United States.
One neat fact about the Snowy Owl is that, unlike most owls, they hunt at all hours, according to All About Birds. I saw the pair mid-afternoon. They were extremely skittish, but below are a few more photos.
I stumbled across this Black-throated Green Warbler hiding as it hopped through the branches of trees at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge in October 2021. It’s not the best photo, but its exciting still exciting to have spotted one.
This rusty-colored adult male hummingbird has made a temporary home in Benton. The homeowner was gracious enough to let me stop by Thursday to see the Rufous Hummingbird. He was a little shy, but he hung out around the back patio area and in the wooded backyard for most of my visit.
Rufous Hummingbirds are usually found out western United States. According to allaboutbirds.org, they travel about 4,000 miles from breeding grounds in Alaska/ northwest Canada to wintering sites in Mexico.
One of my ongoing projects has been to reorganize my photo archives and to go through my folder of birds I needed to identify. I finally got that “need to identify” folder cleaned out. There were a few rare birds in there from 2013 to 2015 that I am now able to check off my bird list. Besides the above pictured Sanderling, here’s a few more: a Lapland Longspur, a Snowy Plover, a Least Flycatcher, a Hudsonian Godwit, a Black-bellied Plover, an Orchard Oriole, a Marsh Wren, a Philadelphia Vireo, a Blackburnian Warbler, an Ovenbird and an American Redstart.
I saw my first Sandhill Cranes in Arkansas this week. The 17 cranes (which have a red crown) were found in Lonoke so it was too close to Little Rock not to go in search of them. Sandhill Cranes are rare to Arkansas, but it is not uncommon for them to be spotted in Arkansas each year. They are more common up north. They breed along the eastern border of the United States and in Canada and migrate through Colorado and Texas just east of Arkansas. I actually first saw them on a trip to Nebraska.
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.
Earlier this week, I took advantage of a free morning to take a hike on a new, roughly 2.5-mile trail off Lake Maumelle. Not only was the hike relaxing, there were tons of birds singing along the way. My most exciting find wasn’t actually on the trail but soaring above it. I happened to look up just as the above pictured Osprey was circling above. I’ve never actually seen an Osprey in Arkansas, although these hawks are pretty common in central part of the state. I actually thought this one was a Mississippi Kite until I took a photograph and zoomed in closer to take a better look.
While the Osprey was a first for me, I also enjoyed practicing my bird call recognition. I’ve started using the sound ID section of the Cornell Lab’s Merlin Bird ID app. While it has listed a few birds as calling that I know are not found in Arkansas, the sound ID app has correctly ID’d quite a few birds that I didn’t recognize the calls of. Two such birds on this trip were the White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Vireo.
The above-pictured Yellow-throated Vireo is actually the third one of its species that I have seen period. I found all three Yellow-throated Vireos within the past week – all thanks to the app’s Sound ID. I would record bird calls, the app would ID the bird call correctly as the Yellow-throated Vireo, and the bird would then respond when I played callbacks (each one has come out in the open, allowing me to get a picture). It’s pretty exciting. The Yellow-throated Vireo may be one of the most colorful members of the vireo family, but it can blend it pretty darn well.
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.