Saturday, February 28, 2009

Joe Neal reports on workday at Wilson Spring

I woke up this morning in Fayetteville to gray skies, north wind, and
snow on the ground. Could be a good birding day. Also, a good day for
conservation. Michelle Viney (and her team) from Audubon Arkansas'
northwest Arkansas field office (Fayetteville) teamed up with Sam's
Club for a volunteer work day at the Wilson Springs property here in
Fayetteville, adjacent the Sam's Club. Over the years, Mike Mlodinow
and I have documented more than 120 bird species there (Bell's Vireo,
Painted Bunting, American Bittern, etc). Despite the cold, north wind
& snow, there were 25-30 volunteers to help remove invasive callery
pears -- what is hopefully the opening effort to reclaim this former
tallgrass prairie and Henslow's Sparrow nesting habitat.
The volunteers are women and men, youngish and oldish. All of us here
in NWA have been hauling limbs for a month as a result of the ice
storm. Here were the volunteers from Sam's Club anyway. What a sight
it was.

Michelle asked me to make a few comments before the volunteers set off
on the pear-removal effort. Here's what I offered:

The history of this property is basically lost in the mist of time,
so let me take you back.
Native Americans hunted buffalo here. Buffalo were still seen in the
Fayetteville area by the first visitors in the 1820s.

The City of Fayetteville was established in Prairie Township. Please
note: it was not established in Tree Township, Subdivision Township,
or Mall Township, or Sam's Club Township. It was Prairie Township,
because when the first settlers here looked around what they saw were
tall, native, prairie grass: Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian
Grass, and Switch Grass. The only trees they saw were in scattered
oak barrens surrounded by native grass plus trees along the major
streams, like Clabber Creek.

This is what I mean about being lost in the mist of time. You cannot
look around Fayetteville now and see the buffalo or the native
grasses. But, that doesn't mean history is unimportant.

Clabber Creek and its associated natural springs is an important
perennial stream that runs through what was once an extensive prairie
that consisted of at least 25 square miles, part of which included
Prairie Township. In the Clabber Creek area, open fields were covered
with prairies grasses and prairie wildflowers. The fields included
small round mounds?we call them prairie mounds-- that formed thousands
of years ago. Mounds have been mostly plowed down and paved over. The
native grasses and wildflowers have been mostly replaced with
non-native grasses like fescue. The fields have been invaded by
non-native trees like callery pears.

The Wilson Spring property is important because many aspects of its
status as prairie grassland remain. There are still prairie mounds on
the property, including fine examples near the Wilson Spring run
within sight of Sam's Club. A rare prairie fish, the Arkansas Darter,
can still be found in Wilson Spring. Scattered in nooks and crannies
are small areas that retain the four chief native grasses: Big
Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Switch Grass. Some very
rare wetland plants have also survived, reminding us of our natural
heritage right under our noses here alongside I-540.

Wilson Spring is still one of the best places in the immediate
Fayetteville area to see and hear more than 120 species of native
birds, many of them strongly associated with prairies. Bell's Vireo,
once a common bird here, still nests in the open field thickets.
Painted Buntings (one of America's most beautiful native birds)
occurs here in summer. Until recent years, Henslow's Sparrow found one
of its only nesting habitats in Arkansas here.

In the heart of the development area of northwest Arkansas,
Wilson Spring provides that rare greenspace where people can commune
with nature on her own terms near where we live the rest of our lives.
Restoration efforts can improve this opportunity by returning more of
Wilson Spring to its original beauty and functionality as a prairie
coursed by perennial springs and Clabber Creek.

This restoration will add greatly to the value of the property to all
visitors, surrounding developments, and it will help rescue from the
mists of time our true prairie origins in Prairie Township.

JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Don't let the contractors take all your brushpiles; the birds won't forgive you

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of mockingbird on brushpile at World Peace Wetland Prairie on February 25, 2009,

The more buds you spot on the ends of small limbs the more likely these limbs are the ones to keep on your property if you want plenty of song birds to be in your neighborhood when spring comes. You might also try to convince your neighbors to preserve some similar brushpiles on their property. And urging neighbors to preserve ice-damaged trees on their property also will help.
Many won't understand. But every property owner who keeps a brush pile or resists pressure to cut down a damaged tree can make a difference in the reproductive success of song birds in the coming spring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Doug James announces February 28, 2009, meeting in Bentonville Public Library

I thought the newsletter would have reached you all by now but delays by
the printer make it unlikely. So I hereby announce that the second
Public Meeting of the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society will be this
coming Saturday, February 28, 10 am to noon in the Wal-Mart Room of the
Bentonville Public Library. The program will be a repeat of UofA Prof.
Malcolm Cleaveland's presentation last Saturday at the Fayetteville Public
Library--"Climate Change Coming Soon to a Planet Near You." This repeat
pattern will be followed at meeting this spring to attract members in both
the southern and northern parts of the NW Arkansas region.

Douglas A. James tel: 479-575-6364
Department of Biological Sciences fax: 479-575-4010
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701-1201, U.S.A. e-mail:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Read my beak, Bella Vista: Don't oil my eggs, don't shoot my goslings

Please click on image of face of Canada goose to Enlarge and read her bill.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society gathers for global-warming program

Click on images to enlarge view of a couple of slides on suggestions for mitigating global climate change that were a part of the Saturday Feb. 21 Fayetteville Public Library event, "Climate Change Coming Soon to a Planet Near You," presented by UoA Professor Malcomb Cleaveland.
On Saturday Feb. 28, 10 am to noon, the same presentation will be repeated in the Rotary Room of the Bentonville Public Library.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mockingbird finds sunshine nice after another cold night on World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of mockingbird on February 19, 2009, at World Peace Wetland Prairie in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society meets at 10 a.m. Saturday in Fayetteville Public Library

Sat. Feb. 21, 10 am to noon, Walker Room, Fayetteville Public Library
> "Climate Change Coming Soon to a Planet Near You"
> presented by UoA Professor Malcomb Cleaveland
> Sat. Feb. 28, 10 am to noon, the same presentation will be repeated
> in the Rotary Room of the Bentonville Public Library.
> Douglas A. James tel: 479-575-6364
> Department of Biological Sciences fax: 479-575-4010
> University of Arkansas
> Fayetteville, AR 72701-1201, U.S.A. e-mail:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Great Pruning: Joe Neal names the ice storm of 2009

I have a name for our now, just-about-all-gone northwest Arkansas ice
storm: the great pruning. It has pruned just everything. I went to the
old Lindsey Prairie today at Siloam Springs. The old former prairie is
covered with melted ice water. All the low places are playas. Saw 7
Bald Eagles in a field, gathered around remains of a small carcass --
maybe an ice victim -- seemed to be taking turns picking at what was
left. Tall prairie mounds north of the Siloam airport offer refuge
from the ice melt -- saw 2 coyotes enjoying themselves on the east
side of a big mound, in bright sunshine. One of the them was darker
than any coyote I've seen. Just down the road -- a fine Harlan's Hawk,
perfect blotches like the cover image on the current issue of Birding.
Hailing from the Far North, you know a big hawk like that probably
wasn't too inconvenienced by the ice or the great pruning. The great
pruning laid down the tall grasses at Chesney Prairie Natural Area.
Swamp Sparrows there probably appreciate more water. I was watching
them, then overhead heard a familiar gabbling overhead -- a flock of
maybe 100 Snow Geese (blues and whites), heading north. What the heck,
it was 60 degrees and the sky was pure blue -- maybe they were missing

JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas.