Friday, July 23, 2010

Doug James congratulated by Joe Neal on the occasion of Professor James' 85th birthday coming up Sunday

My friend and ornithological mentor, Doug James, will open his 85th year on July 25. Just for the record, he was born in Detriot in 1925. I will be out of town on the 25th, so I’ll just have my say right here, right now.

Doug and I go back to 1977 when our shared interest in art and nature found us working together on an art exhibit. I’d been traveling to the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a pilgrim, studying the life and art of Walter Inglis Anderson of Ocean Springs. He was the celebrator of the natural history of the Gulf Coast, and especially Horn Island, now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. He died in 1965, but his family accepted and nurtured my interest.

Artists Robert Ross, Neppie Conner, Martha Sutherland and others in the University art community were interested in having a Walter Anderson show in Fayetteville. His family was willing to loan to us, no strings attached. This grew into plans for two galleries (Oct 3-22, 1977), with some work in the Arkansas Union Gallery (now the Annie Kittrell Gallery) and the Fine Arts Gallery. Annie Kittrell (Arkansas Union Programs), Billie Giese (an art student), and I drove a UA van to Ocean Springs and loaded it up with what would today be millions of dollars of art. VOILA, we had drawings, paintings, pottery, and hand-carved furniture.

Anderson was an avid birdwatcher and bird drawer. He painted birds on pottery and carved them in wood. He created huge murals with birds as central figures. We really needed a bird expert to help us interpret Anderson for the exhibits. This is where Doug came in. He showed up at the Union Gallery and began examining the art in a professorial manner. His notes provided the basis for tags on the bird pieces that were meaningful in an ornithological way.

Besides traveling to the Gulf Coast trying to figure out Walter Anderson (and myself), I had been writing weekly feature stories for a newspaper, the Grapevine. Doug had seen my bird pieces. Before we were done with the Anderson exhibit, we had started talking about his state bird book project. My features tended heavy on poetic phrase and light on science. I don’t know if Doug approved of them in an ornithological way, but he knew I was interested in birds and nature, and especially that I could write. That is, he saw potential in me as a collaborator on what became Arkansas Birds (1986).

Looking over the 30+ years of friendship, I can see that what happened between Doug and I over the Anderson show has been repeated with others. He has seen in many a rough-hewn graduate student potential others couldn’t see; he provided opportunity for potential to flower. Off campus, he has encouraged the public to become involved in ornithology. Consider his role in founding Arkansas Audubon Society. As president of Wilson Ornithological Society, he encouraged networks between professional and non-professional bird enthusiasts. He helped found and then helped resuscitate Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society.

I could go on here, but … Happy Birthday, Doug. Once the beers and cake are downed, there’s more work to do. We are glad at your being freshly minted at 85 and we look forward to sharing with you the work ahead.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Centerton Fish Hatchery next stop on Audubon tour list for August 14, 2010

The next Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip is to Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery at Centerton in Benton County. Date: Saturday, August 14, 2010. Time: 8 AM. Hatchery meeting place: parking area adjacent the picnic shelter. Everyone and all skill levels welcome. You do not have to be a member to participate. You can stay as long as you like & go home when you are ready. There is no on-site bathroom, but there is a McDonalds a mile away in Centerton. Walking will be on grassy mowed lawn or 2 track road. 

CARPOOL FROM FAYETTEVILLE: Meet Joe Neal at 7 AM (sharp!) in the Packrat Outdoor Center parking lot, 209 W. Sunbridge Drive. We’ll clump into as few cars as possible.

The hatchery is designated by National Audubon as an Important Bird Area for good reason. Day in & day out, season after season, the hatchery is interesting & sometimes stunning in terms of its bird life. The southward fall migration of sandpipers and other shorebirds will be well underway by August 14. Birds that nested in Alaska, Canada, & across the Arctic tundra will be passing through. Depending on weather and quality of mudflat habitat on the 14th, we can expect to see 6-8 shorebird species and under very good conditions, this could range up to double that. 

You can see shorebirds anywhere in the state at this time, but the hatchery is special because they can often be seen at close range. If folks who regularly use spotting scopes turn out for this trip, anyone who is interested in an eyeball-to-eyeball look at these fascinating birds should have a memorable day. And, of course, there are many other bird species present at the hatchery – we’ll look at ‘em all.

For more information and directions to the hatchery, check out the NWAAS website here:

The society’s web site also has a complete list of dates and places for field trips to the end of 2010.

To explore all of the bird data associated with 25 years of intense birding at the hatchery, check out “ebird”. In your search engine, type ebird, select view and explore data, select bar charts, select Arkansas and Hot spots in Arkansas. On the drop list of Arkansas hot spots, select Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery (Centerton), then select continue. The bar chart will give you good ideas about what you can expect for the day.
Photos from 2007 and 2010 tours of Chesney Prairie available at this link.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Audubon Arkansas offers meeting in Little Rock with people representing Gulf Coast victims

Gulf Voices logoClean Energy Works is hosting the Gulf Voices Fly-Out in order to share the personal stories of the devastating effects of the Deepwater oil disaster with communities and members of the press across the country.
Four Gulf Coast residents directly affected by the disaster will be traveling to Arkansasfor approximately 24 hours in order to educate the people in the state about the effects of the oil disaster on business, health and ecosystems. The public is encouraged to attend.
The disaster in the Gulf affects real people whose stories resonate across the country. These Gulf Coast residents are seeing firsthand how America’s dependence on oil and other fossil fuels hurts our economy, our environment and their unique way of life in the Gulf. The worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history is happening in our backyards. The environmental, economic and human costs that come with our continued dependence on dirty fossil fuels is too high for our communities to bear any longer.
What: A roundtable discussion and media availability.
When: Thursday, July 15th at 11:00 AM
Where: The Oyster Bar
3003 West Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72205-5853 
 Rick Roberts, Executive Director, Snook Foundation (Sarasota, FL)
Linda Hawkins, Health Care Professional (ret.) (Abita Springs, LA)
Linda Schuch, Owner, Island Seafood Market (St. Petersburg, FL)
Joe Morris Doss, Bishop, Episcopal Church (New Orleans, LA)

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Joe Neal's report on today's Audubon-sponsored field trip to Chesney Prairie with a few photos linked

Somewhere in my mind I have this message that says, “July field trips don’t work out. Waste of time,” etc. The turn-out for this morning’s Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip was 35-40 folks, which makes it one of the best ones EVER in terms of numbers & I would argue, quality, too.
Chesney Prairie and Stump Prairie photos from today at bottom of old Chesney Prairie set of photos on Flickr from 2007.
OK – it is cooler than usual, we have had some rain, and there was cloud cover with a gentle south wind. Can’t do better than that at mid-summer. Plus, Joe Woolbright and his helpers at Ozark Ecological Restoration, Inc. invested a lot of time and effort in mowing the trail system established a few years ago. What that means is, you can walk a grassy, flowery prairie without undue exposure to ticks & chiggers. There aren’t a lot of places like that, anywhere. Advertising that fact probably encouraged some to come out. Our local National Public Radio affiliate, KUAF, also aired free announcements.

Among the 35-40, there was an 11-month girl and several folks in their 70s. There were local folks and out-of-towners. Some had NEVER been on an “official” bird walk or visited a natural, unplowed prairie in full bloom. There was a blind woman – who enjoyed birding by ear -- and several virtually deaf. There were also very experienced birders, butterfliers, photographers, botanists, etc. 
Folks wanted to know how long we would be out: as long as they wanted to be. How far would we walk: as far as they wanted. Could they walk slow: everyone sets their own pace. Is talking OK, or since it is Sunday, did they have to be church quiet: no. Also, Chesney is always open for a visit.

It took only about 15 minutes for the string of folks headed out into the prairie to bunch around different paces & interests. The birders got out ahead and racked up Painted Buntings (male, female, young-of-the-year), Red-headed woodpecker, Orchard Oriole, etc. They naturally bunched around Mike Mlodinow and Joanie Patterson.

A solid knot formed around Joe Woolbright, especially evident as the trail wound around a stunning patch of blazing stars attendant by an array of appreciative butterflies. Woolbright explained how prairie management worked and Paige & Mary Bess Mulhollan filled right in with specifics on the butterflies. Great masses of ashy sunflowers are blooming and we kept getting over-flights of American Goldfinches probably impatient for the seeds to ripen.

Two photographers, David Oakley & Jacque Brown, disappeared in the tall Big Bluestem grass in search of a trophy plant – I think some kind of Silphium. Lisa Sharp, owner of Nightbird Books (where we have had recent NWAAS meetings) came with her husband. Lisa wanted to experience the prairie. Her husband is a “walker” who circumnavigated Chesney’s trail system, then caught up with us to take in the flora & fauna. 

I completely lost track of most of the field trip, mainly because I kept getting & sharing stunning spotting scope views of singing Dickcissels with folks who didn’t have binoculars or hadn’t been birding much. 

Andrew Scaboo got a digiscoped Painted Bunting image. BUT, equally wonderful, we all learned that he has received a post-doctoral fellowship at UA-Fayetteville and will be around northwest Arkansas longer. Since he had finished his PHD, we assumed we would lose him – a good companion on a field trip and a frequent observer at Woolsey Wet Prairie. He wants to go on to a teaching job eventually.

Finally, did I forget: towering Big Bluestem Grass, swaths of Switch Grass, Prairie Cord Grass in flower along the headwaters of Sager Creek, colorful butterflies on blooming buttonbush, a roiling & ever-changing caravan of juicy summer clouds, Loggerhead Shrike on the fence.
Photos from Saturday night Joe Neal lecture at Nightbird Books at bottom of old Flckr site of photos of Conservation groups and people collected over three or four years. Please scroll down to view and use tools (actions choice) to ENLARGE view.

Joe Woolbright will be the star of the show starting 8 a.m. today at Chesney Prairie just northeast of Siloam Springs: Joe Wooldbright was at Joe Neal's lecture at Nightbird (at left in photo) and Joe Neal (background at left) and even the UA's oldest active professor, Doug James (seated in center background in photo below), are expected on the Audubon Tour of Chesney Prairie: For a sample of photos from Chesney Prairie three years ago, please use live link below.

Please click on images to ENLARGE.
Photos from Joe Neal's lecture at Nightbird Books on July 10, 2010
For directions to Chesney Prairie, please see page on Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission site.

Chesney Prairie photos

This is an update on our upcoming the field trip to Chesney Prairie Natural Area near Siloam Springs (Sunday, July 11, meet 8 AM). The field trip at Chesney is an opportunity to visit a native Tallgrass Prairie in FULL BLOOM, walking through the area on a mowed trail--with many birds, of course. EVERYONE is welcome: you do not need to be a member of Audubon to participate. For details, call Joe Neal 479-521-1858.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Big weekend July 10-11 for local Audubon members but nonmember public welcome free of charge

This is an update on our upcoming gathering at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville from 7 to 8:30 PM Saturday, July 10, 2010, and the field trip to Chesney Prairie Natural Area near Siloam Springs (Sunday, July 11, meet 8 AM). The NWAAS “meeting” will last about 1-2 minutes; the main part of the evening is a lecture by Joe Neal with photographs of birds from the western U.S. that have been documented in Arkansas. The field trip at Chesney is an opportunity to visit a native Tallgrass Prairie in FULL BLOOM, walking through the area on a mowed trail--with many birds, of course. EVERYONE is welcome for both events; you do not need to be a member to participate. For details, call Joe Neal 479-521-1858.