Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Joe Neal's report from Feb. 5, 2012: Frog Bayou Wildlife Management Area at the Arkansas River

  • Horned Grebes with horns, Arkansas River yesterday‏

Service berries were flowering yesterday along old Highway 71 down 
through the Boston Mountains to Alma. Most were covered with swollen 
pinkish buds; one had just burst into a brilliant white canopy over 71.

On the Arkansas River adjacent Frog Bayou WMA, a flock of 11 Horned 
Grebes included 4 molted winter gray to black head with golden horns. 
Ducks crowded the river. One raft close enough to study included 166 
birds: Canvasback (12), Northern Pintail (16), Red-breasted Merganser 
(3), Ring-necked Duck (4), Redhead (1), many scaup. I heard Snow Geese 
overhead, began looking up for them, and spotted black and white, but 
these were American White Pelicans (90). I did soon have 5 Snow Geese 
(3 white, 2 blue). Other ducks were too far out for me to do more than 
guess: Gadwall? Mallard?

The valley is powdery dry, but moist soil units at Frog are holding 
water and support mudflats. At one point I had 41 Wilson's Snipe in 
the air. Meadowlarks were numerous; Western Meadowlarks (at least 4 
singing) were quite vocal, like they had found the West of desire. One 
pond had a flock of 7 Blue-winged Teal, my first of the spring, and 
other ducks were present as well: Green-winged Teal (1), Ring-necked 
Duck (25), Mallard (30), Northern Shoveler (11).

American Coots were visiting as they dodged in and out of flooded 
vegetation. I was stopped in my tracks by a piping call, TOOT TOOT 
TOOT BLOOP BLOOOP BLOOP, then whinny. I was just dumbfounded. Then a 
Pied-billed Grebe swam out of the vegetation. It's impossible to view 
Pied-billed Grebes the same after hearing their dramatic songs.

After Frog I crossed the river into Fort Smith to Saint Edward's 
hospital where my former Forest Service co-worker Dan Brown is being 
treated for leukemia. Dan and I worked Red-cockaded Woodpeckers 
together at Waldron. Some of you may know Dan for his part in working 
RCWs at Pine City, Crossett, and elsewhere duty calls. In our 
legitimate despair about peril to so many plant and animal species, so 
many habitats -- and in a climate where it is fashionable to bash 
everything government -- it is easy to forget the day-to-day work of 
individuals like Dan and their steady and generally unheralded 
contributions to endangered species.

Dan will be making more contributions. He was leaving hospital 
yesterday. The long term outlook is excellent.

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

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