Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Joe Neal shares tale of confirming lesser goldfinch siting in Arkansas

  • one phone call away‏

6:56 PM
To,, Armstrong, Lynn, Barnhill, Rosie, Beall, Bill, Erwin, Steve, Fields, Warren, Froelich, Jacqueline,,, Guise, Roberta, Harris, Nancy, James, Douglas A., Liz, Susan And, Lowrey, Beth, MADDOX, BEVERLY, mlodinow, michael, Mulhollan, Paige, Mulhollan, Mary Bess, riley, lisa, Rohosky, John, Ross, Cathy and Bob, Shedell, Joyce & Harlan, Shepherd, Aubrey, STANFILL, TERRY, Stauffacher, Richard, Turner, Ellen, VINEY, Michelle, Woolbright, Shane, Woolbright, Joe, Young, Susan
I thoroughly enjoyed Jerry Butler's account of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch 
fever that swept Arkansas's birding community in early May ("Flying 
High" starting on page 1E, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette May 28, 2012). 
I'm almost but not quite fully recovered. Hope the rest of y'all are 
getting better, too.

Jerry is too polite to ask what we all wonder: How did Don Simons 
manage to get THAT species atop the highest mountain between 
Alleghenies in the East and Rockies in the West? And right outside 
the front door of his visitors center? A bird you could nearly pet 
with your camera lens? Is he trying for a promotion or something?

I'm kidding, of course. But it is 100% fact that this is the only 
species I have seen, but Doug James hasn't, and that despite his 
sweeping and extraordinary experiences with birds over the world 
through seven decades. He once climbed the snowy Rockies in his old 
running shoes just hoping for the view we had outside the Mt Magazine 
visitors center. Actually I'm unsure about the running shoes part.

I was thinking about this in context of the Lesser Goldfinch at Joyce 
Shedell's feeders in Highfill on May 9. It was the last rosy-finch 
day. I was still feverish from my dash up Magazine. Joyce's Lesser G 
would be only the third record for Arkansas. I had to see this one, too.

On May 10 I'm watching feeders in Joyce's back yard. I'm sitting 
close, so I can get a good photograph. I see a disappointing few 
goldfinches, and no Lesser G. I give up in two hours and head for 
fields with Bobolinks and Grasshopper Sparrows, but I remember I 
should pass the bad LESSER GOLDFINCH-NO to David Oakley so he can post 

David tells me Kenny and LaDonna Nichols are on their way to Highfill. 
I call them immediately with my news. Kenny isn't deterred. Says Joyce 
was sure about the goldfinch?s black back.

Have I missed something? I turn and head back. Feeders are in the 
backyard just outside her kitchen window. To get in back you walk by 
the corner of her house. You can immediately see the feeders, but the 
view is much further away than where I was earlier. However, at 
distance, I now see a BIG flock of goldfinches, and among them, one 
obviously smaller with a black back. Oh wow! And I had been one phone 
call away from terminal bail-out.

A light bulb, albeit a dim one, comes on inside my brain. Joyce had 
studied it from INSIDE the house, looking out her windows, causing no 
disturbance. I was too close. Now on my second try, from the corner, 
at 2X the distance, birds carry on like I'm not there.

Joyce offers lawn chairs. I photograph her behind Kenny and LaDonna in 
radiance of Arkansas's third record. LESSER GOLDFINCH -YES. We're all 

JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Joe Neal's report from Lake Fayetteville's prairie-restoration area on May 3, 2012

Rays of welcome light at times penetrate realistic gloomy thoughts 
about our planet's future. Such was the case today, out on a trail 
north of Lake Fayetteville Environmental Study Center. With the 
Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association in the lead, private 
citizens have partnered with government to restore open prairie 
conditions on about 60 acres associated with the pre-Civil War 
Butterfield Trail through northwest Arkansas.

I was out there today with two visitors from San Francisco, Roberta 
Guise and John Rohosky. The first bird I heard was a Field Sparrow, 
then a Yellow-breasted Chat perched atop a snag, then two Painted 
Buntings, counter-signing. The one we could see was a male all red, 
blue, and green. Those on the Butterfield stage of 1859 may have seen 
them, too.

Singing by these native birds, and in general a fresh start for native 
fauna and flora, is payment for hundreds of donated hours of grunt 
work, chainsawing and dragging brush. A direct credit to folks at 
Fayetteville Parks and Recreation who understood ecological stakes. 
The whole area has now had a prescribed burn and some parts a second 
burn. Thickets have been left in areas where streams flow. An Eastern 
Towhee was singing in one of them. A hopeful landscape in transition.

The monster old black oak along the trail, dedicated in 2007 as state 
champion, is deader 'n a doornail, as my dad put it. That old oak saw 
a lot in what is now Fayetteville-Springdale, maybe saw the 
Butterfield stage, maybe had Passenger Pigeons in its branches. It's 
no cause for sadness. Big old trees have an afterlife.

One part of life is done, another begins, as champion snag. Red-headed 
Woodpeckers may be next visitors.

JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas