Sunday, November 20, 2011

Windy Maysville on November 19, 2011, exciting to Joe Neal and Audubon Arkansans

Rose Ann Barnhill showed up at my house in Fayetteville yesterday
morning at 6:40, but not before a stop at Rick's Bakery for cake
donuts (2 flavors) and a sticky bun. It proved just the fuel needed
along a mid-day country lane southwest of Maysville. Kim Smith has
referred to such food as starch bombs, and for good reason. This was
the start of the Maysville, former Beatie Prairie, field trip, part of
the Arkansas Audubon Society meeting in Rogers this weekend.

Have I said VERY WINDY yet? At times you could barely stand. Maysville
is just north of the broad valley of Spavinaw Creek, and a strong
south wind creates considerable updrafting of air. So one of the first
birds we see is a Bald Eagle, hanging in the breeze, no flaps. Then
two Red-tailed Hawks with an American kestrel chasing. At one point we
have meadowlarks in front. The birds flush, kind of, just dangling in
the wind. Used to Arctic breezery, White-crowned Sparrows loaf in
thickets and on the ground, earth calm, a great place to sing. Five or
six of singing flocks include Harris's Sparrows, to our delight.

Mitchell Pruitt is with us and we are hoping, really hoping, that one
of those White-crowned flocks will produce an American Tree Sparrow.
This would be species number 300 for his year of great quest.
Maysville is the stage and we are in a play. Mitchell has the lead, we
are the Greek chorus. We start working the White-crowned flocks, but
no tree sparrow. Then comes a cell call from Chesney Prairie Natural
Area, where Joan Reynolds and Jacque Brown are leading another AAS
meeting field trip. An interesting owl has flushed from a big cedar. A
Long-eared Owl, as some think? For Mitchell THIS would be 300, so off
he goes, with one-third of the Maysville field trip. Further west on
Loux road, we are birding in Carol Loux's yard with Carol, and nicely
protected from the wind -- protected enough to clearly hear the chuck
chucks of Western Meadowlarks on the lawn. Now comes another cell
call. The owl can't be relocated, but 300 is an American Tree Sparrow!
At Chesney! It's windy there, too, but wind has no chance in the face
of desire.

I have yet to share four Bald Eagles in one tree -- huge birds once
nearly extinct in the Lower 48 and saved by the intelligence,
outcries, and resolution of just such people as on today's many
Arkansas Audubon Society field trips. We are the young and
precociously nimble, the old and slowed, and whatever our place in
life, whatever bone or muscle that works or doesn't work, we have a
full tank of desire pushing us into the old prairie field -- damn
those 30 MPH winds, full speed ahead -- looking for a tiny sparrow (in
this case, Lapland Longspurs) in vast short, waving green. There,
there! Horned Larks, black masks between waving tiny blades.

JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas
"I loaf and invite my soul..." -- Walt Whitman

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