Snowy Owl stares like I'm a cotton rat, white feathered head and face, penetrating bright yellow eyes, long black talons -- obviously up to the task -- partially obscured by white feathers. An email from Bruce Shackleford, an environmental consultant for the City of Fayetteville, details an owl near Asbury, Missouri, that a UPS driver has been seeing for five weeks! The location in Bruce's email is up on the old Ozark prairies near Asbury, Missouri, south of Prairie State Park and adjacent Wah-Sha-She Prairie State Wildlife Area. Looks like the real deal, so Sally Jo Gibson from Harrison, David Oakley from Springdale, and me (Fayetteville) are on the road. It's mostly the hilly and currently leafless Ozarks. At Bella Vista, 71 runs alongside golf courses and limestone overhangs and Tanyard Creek, where we see Great Blue Herons standing in nests in tall, white sycamores, whole scene dappled with sycamore balls. At Joplin, chicken house tin is crumbled around upper limbs of bare trees, testimony to the tornado of May 22, 2011, 160 lives lost. We swing around the city on the east, then north, now on highway 171, and pass a village of FEMA trailers for survivors of 7,000 destroyed homes. We have popped onto old prairies, now mostly converted to vast flats of winter wheat. Minutes ahead: Asbury, then Wah-Sha-She and hopefully the owl of Bruce's email. The Kansas line is two miles ahead. After rain and melted snow, it's green with emerging wheat, brown with fresh planting, mainly open country, very open, like the land of Snowy Owls. It's been three months give or take since owls became birder's discussion list headliners. For Arkansans, frustrating months of mainly white 5-gallon buckets and wind-blown Walmart bags imaginatively and longingly viewed on the backsides of big fields. Now there are Lapland Longspurs among Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows in a plowed field. Northern Harriers are everywhere. As we turn off 171 onto Redbud Road, we spot the familiar 5-gallon bucket, but this one slowly turns toward us, with big yellow eyes. The owl seems to prefer a slightly elevated ground perch formed by big gravels, maybe like the windy, bouldery arctic barrens where they nest? We take our views from a portable blind -- Sally Jo's car. We are pretty close; the owl seems immune to rational fears of, say, Red-tailed Hawks persecuted by many generations of Arkansas boys. It mainly surveys the other parts of its 360 degree domain. In truth, we're not in Missouri, Arkansas, or even close to Kansas. Welcome to a big field on the continent of North America, within Snowy Owl range this winter. -- JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas "I loaf and invite my soul..." -- Walt Whitman
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Hope that Audubon members also attend this important meeting with ADEQ people at 6 p.m. Wednesda at Clarion Inn in southwest Fayetteville
Sierra Club's Ozark Headwaters Group to attend ADEQ water-quality public meeting before OHG board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
Public Meeting is for citizen input on possible revision of Reg. 2 water-quality standards. 6:00 PM-7:30 PM. ADEQ Contact: Sarah Clem, 501-682-0660; email@example.com
Monday, February 13, 2012
February 18, 2012 (Saturday evening) Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society hosts an American Woodcock field trip to Wedington Wildlife Management Area (Ozark NF west of Fayetteville). Meeting time, 5:30 PM. Field trip led by woodcock expert David Krementz. Dr Krementz will provide lots of information about woodcocks as part of this field trip. The trip is free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome. The 450 acre Wedington Small Game Area is located on the northwest corner of the Wedington Unit of the Ozark-St. Francis NF, approx. 16 miles west of Fayetteville & approx. 4 miles east of Siloam Springs. The 15,000 acre Wedington Unit is designated as an Urban Forest. We will observe woodcocks in the small game area. DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of HWY 412 and Interstate 540 in Springdale, go west approx. 13.2 miles on HWY 412. Note that Kincheloe Road bisects 412, with turns north AND south. If you are driving from Springdale, you will first pass Kincheloe Rd on your north at approx. 12.6-12.7 miles; don't turn. Keep going another 0.5 miles and turn left SOUTH onto Kincheloe Road and travel WEST for approx. 1.3 miles to Forest Service road 1754. We will meet at this intersection (Kincheloe and FS 1754) at 5:30 PM. (If you arrive late, drive 1754 & find us ? we will be less than a mile away on the road). STUFF YOU CAN BRING: binoculars, a flashlight, don't wear bright clothes, and sturdy walking shoes. You can bring a chair, since we will sit and wait for the woodcock displays to begin near and shortly after sunset. LOTS of other birds are in the area to enjoy during the wait. Mosquitoes could be out if the weather is warm. Overall, this should be a fairly easy trip for most folks, including those with walking impairments. The woodcock displays should be viewable/audible near where we park. MAPS: if you use Google Earth, type Kincheloe Road Siloam Springs, AR into the search. Finally, if this trip doesn't fit your schedule, here's a do-it-yourselfer, around the same time: woodcocks also dance at Lake Fayetteville. Last year, birds displayed in the big open field immediately WEST of the Environmental Study Center and on the disk golf course. For more information, call Joe Neal 479-521-1858.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
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