Thursday, December 24, 2009

Natural Resources Conservation Service removed some pretty healthy riparian vegetation from Scull Creek but left some bad spots with targeted debris blocking stream flow

Please click on images to ENLARGE.

The Scull Creek trail bridge at Ash Street and Chestnut Avenue has had this same debris hung up on it for maybe three months or more since the worst flood of the fall of 2009 sent water flowing over the bridge, but the NCRS contractors ignored it and spent a lot of their time paid for by federal money cutting live trees from the riparian zone and overflow areas of Scull Creek and other streams in Fayetteville, such as the Town Branch.

The good news is that the native wildflowers along the same stretch of trail in the Scull Creek riparian zone were mostly left standing. That means more seed to sprout in spring and more seed for the wild birds to eat. The square stems with now-wrinkled huge leaves still forming water-holding structures along them are cup flowers. a species that grew 10 feet tall and more at World Peace Wetland Prairie and many other prairie areas in Northwest Arkansas in 2009.

By morning, tall grass and tall wildflower seed and other sources such as this native smartweed near Scull Creek and native buckbrush and nonnative China honeysuckle and nonnative privet berries will be among the few places for migrating birds to feed if the snowfall is as predicted.

Wouldn't the birds love it if the trash were picked up from the ditches running from the streets and the apartment dwellers would actually help?

Remember that birdfeeders are important for wintering birds but that every stick of vegetation and every square foot of natural soil left in place are more important for birds and other wildlife.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 20, 2009, Christmas Bird Count for Fayetteville, Arkansas

Provided by Joe Neal

Greater White-fronted Goose 3
Ross’s Goose (2 count week; 3rd time on count)
Canada Goose 868
Wood Duck 2
Gadwall 118
American Wigeon 6
Mallard 223
Northern Shoveler 190 (highest for count)
Am. Green-winged Teal 63
Northern Pintail 1
Ring-necked Duck 22
Lesser Scaup 6
Bufflehead 56
Hooded Merganser 2
Common Merganser 1 (5th time on count)
Red-breasted Merganser 2 (3rd time on count)
Ruddy Duck 7
Pied-billed Grebe 19
Great Blue Heron 21
Black Vulture 22
Turkey Vulture 216 (2nd highest for count)
Bald Eagle 10 (mature8; immature 2)
Northern Harrier 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk 4
Cooper's Hawk 8
Red-shouldered Hawk 22 (highest for count)
Red-tailed Hawk: 36
American Kestrel 33
Merlin 1 (only 2nd time on count)
SORA 1 (first for count)
American Coot 148
Killdeer 79
Least Sandpiper 2 (4th time on count)
Wilson’s Snipe 39
Ring-billed Gull 311 (high for count)
Rock Pigeon 311
Eurasian Collared-Dove 84 (high for count)
Mourning Dove 211
Greater Roadrunner 3
Eastern Screech-Owl 1
Great Horned Owl 7
Barred Owl 1
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD 1 (first for count)
Belted Kingfisher 14
Red-bellied Woodpecker 51
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 18
Downy Woodpecker 78
Hairy Woodpecker 12
Northern Flicker 46
Pileated Woodpecker 8
Eastern Phoebe 4
Loggerhead Shrike 1
Blue Jay 52
American Crow 636 (count high)
Carolina Chickadee 190
Tufted Titmouse 124
White-breasted Nuthatch 54
Brown Creeper 8
Carolina Wren 122 (count high)
Winter Wren 7
Sedge Wren 6
Marsh Wren 1 (4th time on count)
Golden-crowned Kinglet 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 13
Eastern Bluebird 267 (count high)
Hermit Thrush 3
American Robin 90
Northern Mockingbird 108
Brown Thrasher 3
European Starling 12855
American Pipit 39
Cedar Waxwing 63
Yellow-rumped Warbler 100
Field Sparrow 10 (2nd lowest on count)
Savannah Sparrow 123
Le Conte's Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 87
Swamp Sparrow 86
White-throated Sparrow 241
White-crowned Sparrow 107
Dark-eyed Junco 603
Northern Cardinal 308
Red-winged Blackbird 791
Eastern Meadowlark 191
Western Meadowlark 2
Rusty Blackbird 4
Common Grackle 6 (one of lowest on count)
Brown-headed Cowbird 164
Purple Finch 1
House Finch 64
Pine Siskin (3 count week)
American Goldfinch 131
House Sparrow 158
Blackbird species 8050

Total species 94: count day: 92; 2 additional species were identified for the count week (3 days before and 3 days after count day). Notable misses: Several diving duck species (weather too mild), Eastern Towhee, Harris’s Sparrow, etc. We also missed Double-crested Cormorant – first miss since 1996. But still a GREAT day. Good work Fayetteville CBCers!


So if you were going to pick the weather for your CBC day, what would you want? This year we had warmth & and almost no wind. A perfect day to be out all day.
The great star birds for this year are certainly the Sora found by Jason Luscier’s group

Rufous Hummingbird snagged by the Mulholland group at the home of Paul & Ann Johnson in Farmington. They got to the house first thing in the morning and had the bird within 5 minutes. Jacque brown, David Oakley, and others have collected images. I have included one of Jacque’s images of this bird in the report
Both species are firsts for the Fayetteville CBC, dating back to 1961.

Thanks to you 43 PARTICIPANTS (includes 40 in field, 3 at feeder): Douglas James, Andrea Green, Nancy Varvil, Gwen Bennett; Mike Mlodinow, David Chapman, Steve Erwin, Michael Lehmann, Jason Luscier, Christy & Mike Slay; Jeff Kimmons, Maureen McClung; Kim Smith, James Morgan, Warren Fields, Lynn Armstrong; Joanie Patterson, Donald Ouellette; Paige & Mary Bess Mulhollan, Sarah Lehnen, Josh Newman, Sarah King, Kelly Mulhollan; Andrew Scaboo, Brandon Schmidt; Ben Burnette; Joe Neal, Richard Stauffacher, Roseann Barnhill, David Oakley, Jacque Brown, Louise Mann; Joan Reynolds, Stephanie Cribbs, Leigh Helm, Scott Michaud, Jane Purtle, Adam Shaffer. At the feeders: Elizabeth James, Bob & Sara Caulk. Finally, Taylor Long joined several groups taking pictures of the CBC.

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society generously agreed to donate the $5 per participant fee which goes to National Audubon to organize, store, and make accessible the massive mid-winter bird data so useful to the public and to science. This will be around $200. Thank you NWAAS for helping make this count a roaring success.

Thanks to Doug and Elizabeth James for AGAIN hosting another enjoyable after count tally-up & social gathering at their home. Doug spent all day in the field and Elizabeth spent part of the day observing at feeders, then had all of us over.
Finally, for a hecka of a lot more data, check out & play as you wish, by visiting the CBC section of the National Audubon website. -- Joe Neal

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Democrat/Gazette December 21, 2009, editorial advocating saving sale-barn land for Fayetteville National Cemetery pleases majority of veterans and neighbors, but the problem is that saving Town Branch homeowners from flooding downhill from the cemetery is still being ignored: VA already at work preparing to dredge and fill wetland and pipe stormwater directly to Hill Avenue and thus to the 11th Street bridge on the Town Branch

Please click on individual photos to ENLARGE view of wetland area along the north edge of the Fayetteville National Cemetery being prepared for dredging and filling for grave sites. The depressional wetland developed over centuries because it is above a bedrock karst area where groundwater sinks into the underground caverns and aquifers and reduces surface-water flooding. When it is piped to the Town Branch it will further aggravate the flooding danger between Ellis and Van Buren avenues already created by the University of Arkansas' failure properly to manage stormwater on the campus and by paving and development along Martin Luther King Boulevard and on the Aspen Ridge/Hill Place project.

Save acres for vets

Now buy the land for the cemetery

Monday, December 21, 2009
LITTLE ROCK — LIKE WARM Arkansas Christmases, dry eyes after It’s a Wonderful Life, and little boys from the Natural State scribbling “LSU gear” on their annual wish lists, some things are just not meant to be. That’s the way it seems with the controversial student apartments that apparently won’t be built in south Fayetteville. You know, where Washington County’s historic livestock auction house operated until June.
A lawsuit that sought to override the city’s denial of a rezoning request seems to be kaput. Campus Crest developers of North Carolina wanted to buy the property from the auction house’s owner, Bill Joe Bartholomew, and build 500 apartments on the property. But the drawn-out legal ordeal surrounding this purchase became just too much to bear. Mr. Bartholomew now wants his suit dismissed.
The proposed sale to Campus Crest became a flashpoint for veterans and others last summer. They wanted to secure the site across Government Avenue from the city’s National Cemetery so they might preserve the sacred nature of that location. They basically argued that more student apartments in an overbuilt Fayetteville wasn’t an appropriate use of the land. They had a point. The former auction barn parcel does provide an ideally located space to enlarge this rapidly filling cemetery.
Fayetteville’s council denied Mr. Bartholomew’s request to rezone his property. The rezoning would have sealed the sale and enabled Campus Crest to purchase and develop the property. That’s when Mr. Bartholomew filed his suit against the city.

This latest development means the corporation that oversees the cemetery’s operation, Congress, the national office of Veteran’s Affairs, and veterans’ organizations need to find a way to purchase this property. The space needs to be preserved and protected as a final resting place for our veterans in the decades to come.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Joe Neal suggests less shopping, more protecting

less shopping, more protecting‏
Joe Neal (

Back in 2000 I saw a Red-tailed Hawk nest in the stout fork of a big old prairie-era post oak. The oak was part of a small forest developed on former Tallgrass Prairie habitat well marked by impressive prairie mounds. There were Northern Bobwhites in the surrounding fields and Painted Buntings in the shrublands. Visitors to northwest Arkansas and us locals are invariably drawn to this area now because it is Steel Creek Crossing in the burgeoning retail-entertainment district in the vicinity of NW Arkansas Mall.

There was a big battle over these old prairie oaks in 2000, begun when Mary Lightheart climbed what she called the “mother tree” and vowed to stay until development plans were dropped. She kept her vow to stay, but eventually law enforcement brought her down and arrested others who tried to take her place.

I was out Christmas shopping in that area yesterday. What remains of that old oak barren is a handful of fantastic mature native trees and prairie mounds between two popular retailers, Kohl’s and Target . Kohl’s refused to make any compromise with their store building plans at the time. Folks who supported Lightheart handed out bumper stickers after the fracas that read, “I will never shop at Kohl’s.” Trash from the parking lots collects there, mute witness to what happens when a worthwhile fight is lost.

I haven’t seen one of those “I’ll never shop…” adorning a bumper in a few years, so I guess this too has now largely faded. Just from an ecological viewpoint, the little remnant is worth a visit because it is a perfect example of a unique Ozark habitat once much more widespread in northwestern Arkansas. There’s plenty of parking nearby, too.

But I am a historian and a birder, and when I’m out that way, I always stop and look at the oaks and the mounds, remembering that big hawk nest, the bobwhites, and buntings. Bobwhites and Painted Buntings are two of our native birds whose declines are thought by some to be a mystery. Stop by the little woodlot. The reason for decline, at least in our western Arkansas neck-of-the-woods, is palpable.

I also notice that while I did, and do, support the notion of boycotting environmental travesty, like others here, I move on. It’s like being push out to sea by the rip tide. The people who work in Kohl’s and Target look and likely feel just like you & I.

The trash out there in the pitiful prairie remnant got me to thinking yesterday about whether or not any of it was worthwhile, even from the get go. I think Lightheart and the others were right to protest , even if against overwhelming odds. I don’t mean to celebrate “tilting at windmills.” But how else will native birds and their habitats receive protection when they are jeopardized? How else will politicians and developers be put on notice that their decisions have real consequences, and not just the positives that get headlines.

I agree with the reputed views of a Populist agitator from the 19th century, who supposedly told a bunch of angry Kansans, "What you farmers need to do is raise less corn and more Hell." I suppose that’s what Lightheart had in mind when she climbed her mother tree – less shopping, more protecting.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fasting activists inspiring others in Copenhagen to hang tough and demand Climate Justice NOW!

"I support Climate Justice Fast!" sent you a message on Facebook...‏
From: Facebook (
Sent: Sun 12/13/09 4:23 PM
To: Aubrey James Shepherd (
Anna C Keenan sent a message to the members of I support Climate Justice Fast!

Subject: Hunger for Survival - Thursday 17 December 2009

Hello, Climate Justice Fast supporters,

During the COP15 conference, the Climate Justice Fast here in Copenhagen has inspired people around the world to higher levels of activism, and has generated a huge number of media hits from Turkey to Japan to Greece to Korea and all around the world!

Due to the inspiration that the fasters have provided to - in particular - the 1000-strong youth activist contingent at the conference, the youth groups and a number of large environmental organisations have decided that they would like to invite their members to fast for one day - THIS THURSDAY 17 DECEMBER - in support of the CJF, and solidarity with the millions who have and will lose their lives due to the preventable and involuntary hunger, disease and conflict resulting from climate change.

We have created a facebook event here - sign up if you are willing to join the day of fasting and reflection:

Many notable climate and sustainability leaders, including Vandana Shiva, will also be joining in this fast and moral call.

“If not us then who, and if not now then when?”

One day before the Heads of State arrive to finalise the deal in Copenhagen, we are calling for all people, everywhere across the world, to join a single global day of fasting – voluntarily going without food – and personal reflection on the climate crisis, and what we as humanity need to do to solve it.

Commit to join the day of fasting by joining this facebook event - and inviting all of your friends!

Now, we must be done with trying to persuade politicians with debates and intellectual argument. They have heard it all already. Now they face a decision about what is simply morally right.

On Thursday 17th December, we will therefore not yell, but instead quiet our voices and raise up our hearts in silence, not telling our leaders what they should do, but instead use the historically symbolic and powerful act of the fast to ask our leaders to reflect on the gravity of the choices they are about to make.

*** UPDATE on the fasters ***

Sara Svensson, Anna Keenan and Paul Connor are all now on the 39th day of their fast, having started on the 6th of November. Matthieu Balle, a solar panel installer from Paris who joined us immediately after hearing about us on French radio, is now reaching his 22nd day. Daniel Lau and Michael Morphett have both bravely decided to end their fasts, following medical advice, after both passing 30 days without food - a heroic feat.

The fasters are all in high spirits and good health, and are under appropriate medical supervision.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Cedar waxwings showing up in big flocks on December 10, 2009, and eating every berry they can find

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of cedar waxwings at World Peace Wetland Prairie on December 10, 2009. Many species of birds have been passing through Northwest Arkansas this week after a massive winter storm pushed across the upper midwest.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Audubon Arkansas open house from 4 to 7 p.m. today; Environmental Action Committee at 5:30 p.m. in Room 326 of city hall

Audubon Arkansas open house from 4 to 7 p.m. today; Environmental Action Committee at 5:30 p.m. in Room 326 of city hall
The Holiday Season is a busy time so here's a little reminder about our Holiday Open House! If you have not yet RSVP'd don't forget to drop us a line and let us know your are coming! We are looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Please Join Us

Thursday, December 10, 2009
From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at
34 East Center Street
Fayetteville, Arkansas

For the
Audubon Arkansas
Holiday Open House

The staff and board of Audubon Arkansas invite you to join us for food, refreshments, conversation and conservation. Spouses, children, and friends welcome.
Please RSVP to
Wishing You Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Verbesina virginica among several species that serve in winter as ice plants! Find it early mornings in a variety of places in addition to World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on images to ENLARGE photo. Ice-plant displays are like snowflakes. No two are alike. Drive along roads with ditches that have not been mowed back all the way and spot Verbesina virginica with ice around its base on cold, clear mornings. ANOTHER REASON NOT to mow roadsides and old prairie areas. Sometimes, if the mowers haven't cut close to the ground but have taken off the tops of the often 6-foot-tall plants, the ice formations may be spotted by carefully watching for short stem remains.