Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31, 2010, birds of World Peace Wetland Prairie searching for bare ground and free seed

Please click on individual images to ENLARGE view of assorted birds. Many more species are around today, such as red-winged blackbirds, bluejays, cardinals and many others whose names and photos are more difficult to collect.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekend birding report from Joe Neal offers great news on January 17, 2010

Andrew Scaboo, doctoral candidate at UA-Fayetteville, has been watching a big field where up to 8 Northern Harriers have been roosting for at least the past few weeks. That is not big news in parts of Arkansas where harriers are usually numerous, but it is significant in northwestern Arkansas, where in mid-winter we see none or at most a scattered bird or two. Leesia Marshall-Rosenberger, also a UA doctoral student, followed up with the sighting of a Short-eared Owl in this same field on January 10. Subsequently, she, Andy, and others have counted as many as 6 flying owls at dusk. Prior to these sightings, we have had only local, sparse, and scattered Short-eared Owl records for more than a half-century. So, ornithologically-speaking, this is big news for us.

The habitat in use by harriers & owls is a low-lying, former Tallgrass Prairie field marked by impressive prairie mounds. We have been calling these seasonal wetlands; the areas between the mounds are wet from snow melt & retain shallow standing water. Though the field has been heavily fescued, it retains significant Tallgrass Prairie flora, including the chief grasses: big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, & cordgrass in broad patches. Other prairie forb & grass species are also visible, even at mid-winter. My assumption is that if this Tallgrass Prairie flora remains, the prairie small mammal community has survived. It would explain the attraction for harriers and Short-eared Owls. Habitat patches like this survive because they are literally “too wet to plow.” It has become a very rare habitat in western Arkansas, and the loss makes its unfortunate contribution to rangewide declines in grassland birds.

The owl field is immediately east of Woolsey Wet Prairie, adjacent Fayetteville’s Westside wastewater treatment plant. Habitat-wise, it looks exactly like Woolsey prior to the ongoing restoration efforts.

A group of us (including Leesia, Andy, Carolina Monteiro, Brandon Schmidt, and Jacque Brown) linked up last evening (Jan. 17) to look for American Tree Sparrows at Woolsey (~50 in one singing flock!), then crossed Broyles Ave. to walk the owl field. We found 6 Short-eared Owls roosting on the side of a big prairie mound, out in the wide-open middle of the big field. So we got great looks at the birds. Jacque Brown collected fascinating images of flying owls. We discovered Tallgrass Prairie attributes that remain. It is as good as any I’ve seen in northwestern Arkansas.

At dusk we linked up with Sam Holschbach & Dan Scheiman, fresh from their birding loop through northwest Arkansas. A thin gray ground fog begin to form, but we could still see several Short-eared Owls working the old former prairie fields, gliding up and down among mounds. Overhead, in the dark sky, there was just a sliver of moon, and nearby, bright Jupiter, with thee moons visible through the bins. There was just enough light to silhouette overhead flocks of Mallards (& probably shovelers and Gadwalls) as they flew into the shallow ponds and flooded grasslands at Woolsey Wet Prairie.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Flower, garden and Nature Society to hold annual roundtable discussion Saturday, January 16, 2010

From the President........
Out with the old, in with the new! It's 2010, a new year. We
computer programmers tend to count from zero rather than
one like normal people, so I could even make a case for it
being a new decade, too, but I'd probably just confuse
people even more than I usually do.
I hope your holidays were happy ones, and that you're
looking forward to our FGNS programs and activities in
2010 as much as I am. If you'll let me wax philosophical
for a moment, I've said often that our membership is our
biggest asset, and in thinking about that I feel it's because
we have such a wide variety of people, with a huge range
of interests and talents and even opinions. What's really
remarkable is that our group seems to be so open and
friendly that all of these different people and views and
opinions can not only coexist peaceably but work together.
If you're a part of very many volunteer-driven groups you'll
realize just how unusual that is!
As I mentioned in December, Lynn Rogers has put together
another great year of programs (well, the November
speaker looks a little suspect, but that's months away and
maybe he'll shape up by then). It's become a tradition that
our January program is a round-table discussion, and they
are always fun. It's always amazing to see, from the
questions that are asked and the
answers given, all the things our
members know and want to know.
See you on Saturday,
January 2010
Volume 15 Number 1
We come from the earth
we return to the earth
and in between
we garden.

FGNS Officers
Steve Marak
3460 Roma Drive
Springdale, AR 72762
H 479 271-5278
Heather Cook
4436 Highland Knolls Rd
Rogers, AR 72758
H 479 366-9067
Joyce Mendenhall
689 Winbaugh Lane
Fayetteville, AR 72703
H 479 466-7265
Sharon Haley
1 Red Bluff Road
Hindsville, AR 72738
H 479-789-2127
Gail Pianalto
Past President
P.O. Box 444
Tontitown, AR 72770
H 479 361-2198
Paula Marinoni
617 W. Lafayette
Fayetteville, AR 72701
H 479 444-6170
Join us Saturday
January 20
for the annual
Bring a favorite garden
tool for show and tell.
Northwest Technical Institute
709 South Old Missouri Rd
Springdale, AR
(1/2 mile South of Jones Center on
Hwy 265) Enter at south door.
President's Message p. 1
Speaking p. 2
New Officers p. 3
In The Greenhouse p. 3
Calender p. 4
What's On the Web p. 4
2010 Speaker List p. 5Red-bellied woodpecker
on our feeder.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Joe Neal describes birding trip in Maysville area on January 6, 2010

The Ozarks in western Arkansas had a short interlude in winter yesterday. The fields are all still covered with a glaze of snow & ice, and much more so just north of Fayetteville. But, temps got into the 40s and Benton County road crews managed to plow gravel roads. So I tried a trip up to Maysville. There are lots of old prairie fields along Arkansas 102 from Decatur toward Maysville. I saw my first Horned Lark flock in Decatur, dodging poultry feed trucks, farmers hauling big round hay bales, and me, and then found flocks right on the roadside in the most open areas to Maysville. Lapland Longspurs were associated with several of these flocks. Horned Lark flocks: 47 (3 Laps), 20, 46, 10, 19 (1 Lap), etc. Flocks of Savannah Sparrows were even more numerous and more widespread. American Pipits in 5 spots, including several birds bobbing on the snow before dashing to the open roadside. Besides these: American Tree Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Harris’s Sparro
ws, Dark-eyed Juncos, big meadowlark flocks, starlings, etc. – all along the roads. The reason is obvious: Benton County prairies constitute the epicenter of the northwest Arkansas poultry universe, and grain dedicated to commercial birds gets spilled along these roads-- hard times food for hungry mid-winter sparrows and lots of other birds.

The big flock of Lapland Longspurs in a harvested broom sorghum field north of Maysville (~0.4 miles N of the intersection of Wet Prairie & Leonard Ranch roads) has grown in size. I first saw this flock Dec. 27 and estimated it at ~175. I would say yesterday the number was closer to 250-300, but there were such swirling masses of birds there (American Pipits, Lapland Longspurs, Savannah Sparrows, meadowlarks, and hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds & and a few Brewer’s) I could be off by a lot + or -. The attraction is obviously a lot of waste seed from a late harvest. The grain goes into silage for dairy cows (the Crawley dairy farm is nearby).

I photographed a SAY’S PHOEBE that was working the edges of poultry houses of the Va-Meng Simmons poultry farm on Wet Prairie Road, 0.1 mile south of the sorghum field, or 0.3 miles N of the intersection of Wet Prairie & Leonard Ranch Rds. There were Savannah Sparrows, American Pipits, etc in the same place. Poultry houses, which are heated, must provide some buffer from low temps, plus there is that spilled grain there, too. Besides the roadside itself, thawed grounbd around chicken houses is about it. I have no idea what the phoebe was eating, but it was closely working the edges of poultry houses, so maybe some insects make it there, too.

Finally, I saw what I first thought & hoped was a big white falcon, but turned out mostly all white under the wings. I was all jumping up & down until I realized it was an immaculate male harrier, the white in its underwings magnified & intensified by the snow covered fields. We see few of them here, so it was a wonderful in an aesthetic way.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Beaver Lake and Hobbes area to be site of birding activities on January 16, 2010

Joe Neal reports:
Since we have now moved into 2010, this is a reminder that the first Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip is Saturday, January 16. We are meeting at Hobbs State Park - Conservation Area, 20201 E. Highway 12, Rogers at 9 AM. We will pack into as few cars as possible and drive the 5 miles down to Rocky Branch on Beaver Lake to view winter waterfowl and hopefully find land birds in the cedar and shortleaf pine stands adjacent. The productivity of mid-winter waterfowl trips to Beaver varies immensely -- from a waste of time & gas to rarities like Pacific Loon or Western Grebe. We will be hoping for a day with little or no wind, or if slight wind, from the south. Dress warmly -- but we will never be far from cars. (Note: no bathrooms are open at Rocky Branch now). After Rocky Branch we will return to Hobbes State Park & can bird some more there for anyone interested and picnic. At 2 PM, I'm presenting a program on winter birds in the Hobbes-Beaver Lake Area as part of the
park's lecture series. I am told there will be snacks (not lunch) provided at the park as part of this activity. The field trip & lecture are free & open to the public. You do not need to be a member of NWAAS or be an experienced birder to participate in this or any other field trip. If you have additional questions, call me at 479-521-1858.