Surprising find: Soras

Sora

I was taking a photo of a Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs (pictured at the bottom of the above photo) when a Sora casually walked out of the rice and began walking around. I definitely wasn’t expecting that to happen. I was snapping photos when, all of a sudden, a second one appears.

Soras are a secretive marsh bird that can be found throughout the United States at various points in the year, according to AllAboutBirds.org. They can be found in Arkansas during migration season. However, they aren’t expected to be sighted at the moment in Arkansas.

Snowed in

“You’re in my spot!” American Goldfinch, Pine Warbler

Today’s a state holiday and we’re snowed in. So, it was the perfect day to birdwatch. We had 23 total bird species visit our feeders today – and that doesn’t include some birds we typically see like the American Crow and White-breasted Nuthatch (both were present yesterday but not today 🤷🏼‍♀️). Here’s a few of my favorite visitors today:

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker
Eastern Bluebird
Northern Flicker
European Starling
Northern Cardinal

No, I didn’t spend all day simply watching my feeders. There was also tax work and a walk around the neighborhood. I’ll let you guess which one was my favorite.

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.

Visiting Rattlesnake Ridge

Winter Wren

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.

Eastern Phoebe
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red-breasted Nuthatch

First Day of 2021

Red-bellied Woodpecker

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.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler
White-breasted Nuthatch
Tufted Titmouse

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.

Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush

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.

Photos: Swallowtail Kite

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.

Wapanocca NWR I

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My aunt has lived in Marion since I was a little girl. My sister and I would stay with her to make cookies at Christmastime and to visit the Memphis Zoo. I have tons of memories of visiting her house, however, none of them include Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in Turrell.

Wapanocca is about 15 minutes north of her house and, apparently has a long history with my family. My grandmother and dad both visited the refuge from time to time. I was just introduced this year.

Previously the site of the Wapanocca Outing Club (a hunting club), the 5,485-acre refuge was established in 1961 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl and consists of mainly agricultural land, bottomland hardwood forest, reforested hardwoods, open water and flooded cypress/willow swamp.

My first visit there was with fellow birders. I spent the night with my aunt and slowly made my way to the refuge to meet the others. I knew it was going to be a great trip when I spotted the below coyotes (oddly, my first viewing) just outside of the refuge.

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Coyotes

Here’s some more of my non-bird sighting:

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Drumroll … New bird visitor at my home

I’ve lived in Stuttgart for three years this August. During this time, my main feathered visitors have been house sparrows, cardinals, doves, American robins and blackbirds. And, of course, the occasional cedar waxwing.

Now, I love having these constant birds. Don’t get me wrong, but I decided late last summer I wanted for more variety. And I finally took action after months of just thinking about it. I actually kept my feeders full, switching to a more fruitier blend to attract another variety of birds (which my usual crowd still likes) and put up my first hummingbird feeder.

The results were slow. I received my first hummingbird late last summer. This spring, I woke up to a rose-breasted grosbeak singing at my feeder. And I recently discovered the below American goldfinch. Today, I finally had what I believe was a House finch.

I see most of the birds first thing in the morning, around 7 to 7:30. And honestly, the finds are a great energy boost for my day. So, hopefully the birds will keep on visiting.

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