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.

Correctly identifying a Purple Finch

I finally photographed a Purple Finch.

I can’t tell you how excited that makes me. It comes after years and multiple attempts of me thinking I finally found one – only for a more experienced birder that I trust to come forward and say, “that’s a House Finch. Good try.” 🤷🏼‍♀️

The Purple Finch I correctly identified was hanging out with American Goldfinches. It’s was a bird-filled yard. Below, I included another photo of the Purple Finch and American Goldfinches as well as my other favorite photos of the trip: one of a pair of Northern Cardinals and one of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Winter of Rare Hummingbirds

An Anna’s Hummingbird was reported in Vilonia yesterday. Luckily, the homeowner who reported her allowed me to stop by today to see her! 😍

Anna’s Hummingbirds have iridescent green feathers (males have rose-pink throats although the females have a tiny red throat patch – females of most species have none). They are typically found along the western coast and in New Mexico and Arizona. According to AllAboutBirds, unlike most hummingbirds, they either don’t migrate or migrate a very short distance to find better places to eat. Cool fact: during courtship, the male will fly up to 130 feet in the air and dive down to produce a burst of noise through their tail feathers. This takes the male about 12 seconds to do.

Today marks the THIRD hummingbird species I have seen in Arkansas since Dec. 3! Pretty impressive – and odd – seeing as I’ve only seen the Ruby Throated Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird since I started birding years ago. Hopefully it won’t be the last!

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

PHOTOS: A Fork-tailed Flycatcher

A Fork-tailed Flycatcher – only the second of its kind documented in Arkansas – has been spotted in Desha County. Fork-tailed Flycatchers are typically found along the Atlantic Coast and migrate from southern South America. They can be found in savanna’s, grasslands and other open country with scattered bushes and trees, according to eBird. The one in Arkansas has been hanging out around a bridge over Boggy Bayou. It is an agricultural area with a paper manufacturing plant nearby. While I was there, the bird was easy to spot and, even when it flew away, it returned to the same trees. Others said it perched on a power line although it never did while I was there. Here’s some more photos (plus some of other birds I love):

Northern Flicker
Pied-billed Grebe
Carolina Chickadee

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.

Backyard Visitors

Earlier this year, I accepted a non-journalism job in Little Rock — a move I never thought I would ever make both in terms of leaving journalism and leaving Northeast Arkansas.

I lucked out in the housing situation, though, and one of my favorite things to do is to keep track of the various wildlife to visit my backyard. Besides the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, I think we are most excited to welcome four to five Baltimore Orioles. Above are some photos taken in late April.