Thursday, December 30, 2010

Barred owl goes to work at 5 p.m. on December 29, 2010, at World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on link to ENLARGE view of barred owl hunting from hackberry limb over World Peace Wetland Prairie at 5 p.m. December 29, 2010.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Buckeye butterfly on Liatris on September 19, 2010, at World Peace Wetland Prairie

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Immature male cardinal eating ambrosia seeds on September 16, 2010

Please click on individiual images to ENLARGE.
September and October are feasting months for locally fledged birds as well as the hoards of migrating birds that find Ambrosia trifida a special native treat in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The importance of allowing native plants to go to seed and remain standing as "feeders with legs" cannot be overemphasized.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Joe Neal recounts news from annual Christmas bird count

It’s fun to walk around in the cold dark. We started Fayetteville’s CBC day, December 19, for owls. I had 18 layers, including 3 coats, and the 4 of us, all suited up, looked 2X our size and could have been penguins. We got the expected owls, then heard a sharp call in the dark that sounded like someone had stepped on a cat's tail. Was that a Long-eared Owl??? I stayed warm, but by mid-morning, with sun, I felt like I was wearing, or maybe cooking in, a crock pot. But, hey, it's the second half of December and who is complaining??? 
--Despite some last minute scrambling to get parties into our traditional sectors;
--Despite some unexpected stress & illness;
--Despite remarkably mild, warm, sunny, calm weather that makes it a joy to be outdoors, BUT can really put the proverbial chill on a CBC;
--Despite missing species we expect or least sometimes "get": bobwhite, cormorant, Horned Lark, etc;
--Despite needing to arrange things so someone else plays with the kids while mom goes birding--
We still crossed the magic 100 species threshhold; 102 it looks like this morning. Possibly a few Count Weeks birds more to come. This is a Great Result for our count. Thanks to Doug James and Elizabeth Adam for allowing us to use their home again for the tally.
Big stars of the day: Anna's Hummingbird still coming to the feeder at the home of Sara and Coy Bartlett; a very yellow Palm Warbler that Mike Mlodinow has been seeing since November; a female Red-breasted Merganser tallied by Joanie Patterson's group; a Grasshopper Sparrow seen by Andrew Scaboo and Brandon Schmidt and amazingly photographed by Andy; a fine, black-necked, unmistakable Eared Grebe tallied at Lake Fayetteville, and 3 Greater White-fronted Geese, happily for us, mixed with Canadas.
More big stars: all of you public-spirited folks who gave a long day to record and formally document the many earth treasures in our neck of the Ozarks. Thanks for the generosity, wit, intelligence, skill. 
So we had a great day with relatively balmy weather, providing no support for the oft-stated hypothesis "good weather equals bad birds" or "bad weather equals good birds." If my math is correct, next year we celebrate the 50th local count, which dates to 1961. We should maybe consider a big party, since 102 (+?) species will be hard to beat.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jim Bemis speaks at Telecom Board meeting on December 16, 2010

GOVERNMENT CHANNEL SCHEDULE published Friday, December 17, 2010, the day following Telecom Board meeting, does not include Telecom Board meeting video to be run during week of 12/17/2010 through 12/12/2010. Bemis' comments, therefore, will not be shown on Cox Cable or AT&T U-verse until long after the Fayetteville City Council meeting at which the CAT contract will be voted on Tuesday, December 21, 2010.
Please click on individual pages to ENLARGE for easy reading.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Joe Neal hunting waterfowl without a gun!

Andrew Scaboo’s posting about male & female sawbills (Common Merganser) at Bob Kidd Lake near Prairie Grove got me out yesterday. He saw them in the open by the dam. The female was hidden in the shoreline lotus. She flushed suddenly, but didn’t fly. She swam, mostly underwater, across the lake and perched and preened behind a bunch of snags, along the far shoreline. Despite watching her for an hour, I never saw him. I had the impression that her left wing was injured, but I couldn’t tell for sure. Other divers: Ring-necked Duck (14), Lesser Scaup (4), Common Goldeneye (1), Ruddy Duck (17). At one point the goldeneye male swam right past our sawbill. Quite a contrast in color, shape, bill function, and life strategy. Also, one juvenile Bald Eagle.

Powerful cold is great for birding here because smaller bodies of water freeze, concentrating birds, so off I went to Lake Sequoyah. It was only half frozen and unfrozen water was waterfowl. There was constant, pleasant yacking by female Mallards, some standing and walking on ice. I got 10 duck species, with the highest numbers of Mallards and Gadwalls (combined, 300+), but I also saw a high number (74) for another sawbill species, immaculate female and male Hooded Mergansers. Also a big surprise: 3 male Wood Ducks, common through the fall, but not after such weather.

The main part of Lake Fayetteville was open. I saw an immaculate Eared Grebe -- black-looking, with white contrasts even on a heavily overcast day, and an amazingly blood red eye.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

World Peace Wetland Prairie's Earth Day 2010 celebration video

Anna's hummingbird is the star of Joe Neal's Christmas story

Joe Neal writes:
Out of the blue, out of the Far Western Ether, a star is born, a few ounces of feathered reality finds a feeder at a farm near Fayetteville: Anna’s Hummingbird. The world of the western Ozarks in Arkansas has never seen anything like it. Those of us with an interest in such undertake the journey, from afar if necessary, not on camels exactly, but we hear the message, we can’t resist the pull of celestial gravity.

Sara Cain-Bartlett has made her front porch available to both the bird and to visiting birders. Bob and Martha Sargent traveled from afar (Alabama) to band it and to document it in the way of scientists. Observers and photographers have turned the Bartlett front yard into a sacred space. We hope for it on the Fayetteville Christmas Bird Count on December 19.

As curator of bird records for Arkansas Audubon Society, I can tell you in a quantitative way that this bird represents one of a very few records for the whole great Natural State. Despite all the feeders, despite ardent bird watchers, despite the presence in Fayetteville of the Natural State’s greatest institution of higher learnin’, this is the first Anna’s in “these here (Ozark) parts”. So does this mean the world is warming? Does it mean Anna’s has lost its way? Does it mean we have more feeders? Does it mean that despite thinking we know EVERYTHING that needs to be known, we don’t? Maybe there’s still this one thing, a few ounces of feathers and a few thousand miles of travel, that we just don’t know the WHY of?

And, can it survive winter in the Ozarks? Those of you who are connoisseurs of the arcane may appreciate that the same Ozarks now hosting Anna’s in December has also hosted winter Say’s Phoebe, another westerner. One bird has returned three years to a farm in Boone County! We saw one in February during a Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip. On 7 January 2010, I photographed Say’s Phoebe as it foraged alongside a chicken house in the middle of an ice storm. This Anna’s Hummingbird, too, may benefit from the near presence of cover, poultry houses, farm animals, and a welcoming family, not to mention a heat lamp!

As I was taught as a child, the original Christmas story extolled the virtue of hope and possibility in a world where even a pregnant young woman was denied room at the inn. Instead, she gave birth in a manger. Sara could have blocked all of us from coming to her home to see her hummingbird, but didn’t. Bob could have refused to evaluate pictures or to band the bird – but didn’t. Birdwise, it is a season of generosity.

It’s a hopeful sign, when just as we think we know it all, out of the Far West –and straight out of the heart of quantitative improbability -- comes Anna’s Hummingbird. A young male, he’s a creature with star power, on a farm, in a small community, in Arkansas. Birdwise at least, it’s a hopeful season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Note on tomorrow and Sunday FREE activities for bird enthusiasts from Joe Neal

On Sat, Dec. 4, I am presenting a program at Shiloh Museum starting 11 AM on local birds & my new book. On Sunday, Dec. 5, there is an NWAAS meeting at Nightbird Books starting 6 PM, free & open to the public, with a program on coastal Louisiana presented by Joanie Patterson.

Joe Neal birding report from December 2, 2010

The great virtue of Maysville is that it is as far north and as far west as you can get in Arkansas. Any further north, welcome to Missouri. Any further west, welcome to Oklahoma. Not far to Kansas. When in the 1830s Cherokees were forced west, Maysville was Tallgrass Prairie, a short hop from the Great Plains. Elements of that past remain: decaying pioneer era farm houses (“little houses on the prairie”) and along fencerows and highways, poignant reminders like Big Bluestem grass and Sawtooth Sunflowers.

Some of that old prairie has been turned into soybeans. Harvested fields yesterday were packed with Lapland Longspurs, American Pipits, and Horned Larks, about in that order. I was out of the car watching a dark chocolate colored red-tail (4 for the day) when a cloud of rattling and tewing longspurs sailed over and claimed a harvested bean field. Counting longspurs like this is like counting starlings. I settled on 325, then 325-400, then after 30 minutes of trying, realized I was out of my league. I saw pipits and larks, too, but when I got my scope on the flock it was almost pure, busy longspurs. Sometimes one longspur would perch briefly on a tall bean stalk – a first for me. A quarter mile north, same thing: I counted 415 longspurs on the ground, part of a continuously moving flock.

I’m pleased to report the Maysville Handi-stop has reopened, very good news indeed, because I was ready for a break! To the north, along Wet Prairie Road, at least 43 meadowlarks flew over, including 2-3 Westerns, which were singing and chucking in the warm afternoon sun.

It was a blue sky day with wispy cloud strings and the clouds turned pink at sunset. I was in the going home traffic, but my mind was around Maysville. We live with the conceit that winter longspurs and meadowlarks are some sort of fancy ornaments or oddities in northwest Arkansas. But this is only because we assign to ourselves primary rights to the land. I’m headed to my house and heater, they are out there now, on and of the land, as night comes.