Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Joe Neal report for Tuesday and early Wednesday from Fayetteville and north

Please click on individual images to enlarge view of birds competing for seed and cat food on Aubrey James Shepherd's front porch on February 9, 2011. A few doves, a few bluejays, numerous blackbirds, half of which at least have been red-wing blackbirds, assorted sparrows whose species Aubrey can't sort out have been photographed only through a dirty window and screen, while chickadees and wrens have competed with larger birds to get time on one of Lauren Hawkins' pine cones with seeds and fat rendered from a piece of hog jowl outside an even cloudier window. The photos posted here were taken while I was actually standing outside the door. The larger and wilder birds won't come down to feed while I (Aubrey) am standing there.
Joe's report is below the photos.


Joe Neal said by email:
We have another 8 inches of fresh snow as of this morning in  
Fayetteville. We?re shut. Everything including the University of  
Arkansas is closed. All kinds of blackbirds have come to town and my  
yard, driving my indoor cat crazy as they crowd the feeder.
I am doubly glad I made another effort yesterday (when the roads were  
relatively clear) to get up into extreme NW Arkansas, roughly from  
Siloam Springs up through Gentry, Maysville, and back through  
Gravette. This basically involves highways 59, 12, 43, and 72.
There were flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows,  
White-crowned Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, meadowlarks, Horned Larks,  
Lapland Longspurs, Northern Cardinal, and Harris?s Sparrows (one flock  
of 7 at Maysville), more or less in that order of abundance, along the  
roads. Plus big flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings,  
Brown-headed Cowbirds, and a few others including Rusty Blackbird and  
Common Grackle (plus, I have heard reports for a few Yellow-headed  
This is poultry country and a lot of chicken feed gets spilled/drifted  
along the highways. Since everything else is covered with ice and  
snow, plowed roadsides and feedlots are crowded with hungry birds.  
There is also a LOT of car and truck traffic along these roads, so the  
birds are constantly flushed. It is a sign of hungry times that they  
flushed and come right back, flush and come right back.
At the Vaughn dairies I saw Great-tailed Grackles in one place ?  
walking around in the hay and manure under and alongside big dairy  
cows ? quite a scene really, an island of life in a vast snowfield.
Yesterday, under these conditions ? with shoulders iced-over or with  
big plowed drifts ? and feed trucks trying to keep the poultry houses  
supplied ? and everyone trying to get to the store before the storm we  
have today -- it wasn?t easy to obtain real flock sizes. I throw on  
the flashers, pull over as far as I can and rapidly count everything I  
can see.
The stress on hungry sparrows is apparent. I saw several Savannah  
Sparrows that were sluggish and barely moved or didn?t move at all. I  
photographed a lone Lincoln?s Sparrow at Maysville that ignored me.
In a few places with less or little traffic, or when I just got lucky  
and caught a break in the traffic, I felt like I was seeing and able  
to count entire flocks.  There were 58 tree sparrows in one flock  
along 43 between Cherokee City and Maysville and 42 and 20+ in fields  
along the road adjacent the state fish hatchery at Centerton. I had  
254 tree sparrows for the day and that did not include the many flocks  
I couldn?t safely stop for. If I could have stopped it would have been  
2X that. Horned Lark flocks were abundant along 72 E of Maysville.
The handistop store at Maysville is open again, with gas, snacks, deli  
sandwiches, and daily lunch specials. This is an asset for birders  
visiting this area and I encourage everyone to stop and spend to keep  
it open. Gas prices are always competitive and the sandwiches have  
been great.
JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas

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