Friday, December 6, 2013

Protect America's Eagles

Audubon logo | ACTION ALERT
arrow pointing at letter
Bald Eagle | Dave Menke/USFWS
Tell Secretary Jewell to reverse the decision that puts Bald and Golden Eagles at Risk.
Dear Aubrey,
Unless we act quickly, Bald and Golden eagles face 30 years of death and injury at the hands of wind power companies. Instead of protecting our national symbol, the Interior Department is preparing to knuckle under to industry lobbyists and sanction the killings.
At issue is a permit Interior is granting the wind industry that lets them kill Bald and Golden eagles despite little if any certainty that the permitting regime can protect eagle populations. Wind farms are often placed in the path of eagle migration routes and dozens perish every year as they collide with invisibly whirling blades and high towers.
Newer technology and siting information is available that could pose less risk to birds, but the Interior’s action has given the wind industry every reason to dawdle. As a result hundreds of eagles will sustain horrible injuries and death.
Those deaths could be averted.
Wind energy is an important piece of moving America beyond fossil fuels. But it is possible for wind farms and birds to co-exist more peacefully. Sadly, if Interior’s plan goes forward, that will not be the case.
photo of David Yarnold
David Yarnold
David Yarnold
President & CEO, National Audubon Society

Share this alert
Too many newsletters? You can unsubscribe or better yet, schedule automatic cleanup.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Joe Neal returns to Buffalo River issue as powerfully as only he can: Please use link to view video featuring more comment from Joe Neal and other experts on Buffalo River hog-farm issue

For more powerful comments on the Hog Farm issue by Joe Neal and many others, please watch full version of May 1, 2013, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance panel discussion in Fayetteville on May 1 2013.
The same folks who say President Obama's birth certificate is a "100% fraud" are convinced White River Watershed National Blueway is an attempt by the United Nations to grab 17.8 million acres from the American people. Here's a snippet from them:
"The whole purpose of this Blueway is to take over ALL land and Surface Water . . . the goals are to rewild over 50% of the United States . . . The Blueway is presented as some warm and fuzzy program to protect the environment, when in fact it is an unlawful federal land grab with an end run game plan to drive you off of your land, so some obscure endangered species won’t be threatened by man’s progress."I haven't seen anyone in the UN's purported black helicopters when I've been out birding, but currently in northwest Arkansas, we have a power company with eminent domain rights planning new powerline corridors. If built, one would have direct negative impact on a large nesting site for Great Blue Herons near Beaver Lake dam. I guess they will control vegetation in the corridors by spraying herbicides from helicopters.
Already built, and now operating in the watershed of the Buffalo National River, is a large confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) for hogs. Untreated wastes from this CAFO pose a direct threat to native birds like Louisiana Waterthrushes that forage on aquatic insects like caddis flies. The CAFO is also a threat to a tourist industry involving more than a million folks yearly. This is a Cargill operation – Cargill, the worldwide giant.
Here's a pro-Blueways snippet: "The National Blueways System recognizes and supports local and regional conservation, outdoor recreation, education, and sustainable economic development activities. The recognition has no legal impact on private property . . . The Program is entirely voluntary and private landowners choose whether or not to participate in any assistance programs or initiatives . . ."
The Bible we had when I was a kid showed our creator as an older white male with a long flowing beard. As I've gotten older I realized God could just as well be one of those obscure aquatic insects in the rivers, or even a plain brown bird that bobs as it walks along the river.
 Something to think about. God as caddis fly, or perhaps Louisiana Waterthrush, and not too forgiving of our pollution.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Buntings and bathrooms: Joe Neal's report from Buffalo River visit

Yesterday morning I photographed an Indigo Bunting x Lazuli Bunting hybrid, a stunning study in deep blue and sharp white, much like the one in Big Sibley, page 470. This bird was on the creek side of Arkansas Game and Fish's interesting and educational Elk Education Center in Ponca, in the valley of the Buffalo National River. I also saw regular Indigo Buntings.

Louisiana Waterthrushes were acting like they were probably feeding young on the lower part of the hillside across the creek in the same area. We watched also watched a fledgling Eastern Phoebe being fed.

My visit to Ponca yesterday was to lead a field trip for a group of folks who made financial contributions to Ozark Natural Science Center, now battling to stay alive after 20 productive years. You would think no such battle to just keep the doors open would be required considering our society's vast wealth and the natural world upon which this wealth is based.

One of yesterday's stops was at the Ponca low water bridge over the Buffalo River, an easy place to view birds and native flowers in the river's riparian zone, and a very popular swimming hole. Grandparents often bring their kids here, just because the water is clean and the place is so stunningly beautiful. From the bridge you can see typical fish in clear water.

I was shocked that even the basic vault toilet there is locked because of Congress flat-lining Park Service budgets. Toilets are locked, even with a record-shattering Wall Street boom and a reported 37 trillion dollars stashed in tax-evading Cayman Island bank accounts.

I'm assuming not too many who visited the park yesterday felt bereft for not having seen the Indigo x Lazuli hybrid at Ponca, but I’ll bet there have been some choice words about the bathrooms. I certainly had a few, and I would like to have heard grandma when one of her grandkids needed to go potty and tried pulling that locked door open in their National Park.
It is about Congress folks, not the Park Service. It is about where we want to go as a society.b

Friday, April 26, 2013

Joe Neal muses on powerlines, great blue herons and unintended cruelty

I've been looking at a webpage and related materials about new powerline routes proposed by Southwestern Electrical Power Company (SWEPCO) through Ozark hill country in northwest Arkansas. One route would impact a Great Blue Heron nesting rookery on a tributary of White River below Beaver Lake. The lines would run between the rookery and the river, where adults feed themselves and haul food back to nestlings.

If this route is chosen, the adult herons will have another obstruction to dodge and fledglings more risks, potentially deadly, as they learn the Great Blue trade.  Unfortunately, they don't all learn how to dodge wires.

In June 2011, I photographed a fledgling Great Blue near Siloam Springs, flight feathers on one wing terminally wrapped around a high wire. It took a couple of days to die up there, a sad jerking and hanging, plain for all to see, avian calvary at the intersection of nature and modernity.

Seeing such, and gruesome varieties – a Neotropical migrant like a Hooded Warbler who traveled thousands of miles unscathed, then smacks into our picture window, comes to mind here --really should sober us up, get us serious about some alternative ways, but . . . but the cruelty, most of it not deliberate, proceeds.

I will be pointing this out in my letter to SWEPCO. When our time comes to reach the pearly gates, god of ALL could be -- not grandpa with soft beard -- but Great Blue Heron with long sharp beak, maybe even that one hung on high wire at Siloam.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Joe Neal report shared by Bruce Shackleford

Birding the Arkansas River Valley south of Kibler was fun today, especially IF you like mud hogging. The roads were wretched after rain yesterday. I thought we might find a bunch of Upland Sandpipers; 1. Seven Swainson’s Hawks, mostly in the vicinity of the sod farm at Westville & Crawford Roads, provided compensation, as did two juvenile Bald Eagles along East Arnold Road, plus a singing Western Meadowlark.

Later in the afternoon, Joan Reynolds and I spent an hour at Woolsey Wet Prairie in Fayetteville. First up, Upland Sandpipers (6), soon followed by White-faced Ibises, some with well-developed white borders (5), and finally Wilson’s Phalaropes (7), plus other shorebird species and lots of Savannah Sparrows, with remarkable yellow eyebrows (supercilium).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Earth Day activities April 20-21, 2013, in Fayetteville

Please click on images to ENLARGE for easy reading.

John Rule looking across Frog Bayou where it runs through his property in Crawford County

Earth Day poster with Western Wall Flower on WPWP

Monday, April 15, 2013

Joe Neal's weekend report on birding includes reminder of reasons to demand that hog-farm plan in Buffalo River watershed be quashed

Broad-winged Hawks (2) over. White-eyed Vireo (2), Yellow-throated Vireo (6), Red-eyed Vireo (2), Blue-winged Warbler (1), Northern Parula (6), Yellow-rumped Warbler (10), Cerulean Warbler (2), Black-and-white Warbler (4), Ovenbird (4), Louisiana Waterthrush (1), Hooded Warbler (5), Scarlet Tanager (1). Wood Ducks -- 17 on Boxley mill pond, plus 2 Trumpeter Swans. Barred Owl silently sailed low over Lost Valley trail.

Big blooming peak for purple trilliums, umbrella magnolias starting to bloom, first white Ozark spiderworts along the spring seeps off Cave Mountain, and wood betony, ginger and golden seal in bloom, some scattered blooming jack-in-the-pulpits, including one along the trail in Lost Valley with gorgeous purplish veins in the peaked hood over ole jack. 

Gorgeous yellow trout lilies that Carl Hunter used on his Wildflowers of Arkansas cover are mainly gone for the season. So too most Ozark wake robins.

In case anyone out there thinks the Buffalo National River isn't worth a fight to protect, you should have been at Lost Valley yesterday. The parking and trails were FULL of people, mainly families, and not mainly folks with fancy outdoor gear. It was Mom, Pop, the kids, sometimes grandma and grandpa, plus folks entertaining visitors from other states, and church groups in Jesus Saves t-shirts. They were there because it is the finest and most accessible of National Parks, family-friendly, for old and young, and really gorgeous. The Park Service continues to improve the trail to absorb so much impact, and to make it accessible to users with a variety of walking abilities. It was readily seen why over one million people a year visit this park, and why protecting its ecological integrity should be the Number One priority for those who value high quality recreation for us common folks, value the idea of parks generally, and who want to keep meaningful nature experiences in the Natural State.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Legality of hog-farm permit questioned by National Parks Conservation Association

Melissa Terry10:53pm Apr 8
From Grant Scarsdale (Harrison photographer): National Parks Conservation Association Calls Permitting Process Flawed for Hog Farm on Buffalo National River Tributary National Parks Group Urges U.S. Department of Agriculture and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to Pull Permit.

Mt. Judea, Ark. - On March 29th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) responded to a written request from the National Park Service (NPS) seeking clarity around a permit that was issued earlier this year for a hog farm along Big Creek – a tributary that empties into Buffalo National River just 5 miles downstream. An analysis of the process by which C & H Hog Farms, Inc. obtained a loan guarantee suggests that the permit was issued without proper consultation of the Park Service – a requirement of the Farm Services Agency for projects located below or above a national river.

“Based upon the Farm Services Agency’s own guidelines, the entire permitting process for the hog farm was flawed and the decision should be thrown out,” said National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Senior Program Manager Emily Jones. “This hog farm could do real damage to the resources at Buffalo National River. If a proper review was completed, the environmental assessment would have shown the impacts.”

The hog farm would hold as many as 6,500 animals and generate roughly 2 million gallons of waste annually, which could impact the Buffalo River downstream. The operation could harm several endangered or threatened species in the region, including the gray bat and the endangered snuffbox mussel. Under Endangered Species Act regulations, federal agencies must ensure their actions don’t jeopardize the continued existence of listed species. In addition to failing to consult with the Park Service on impacts to the river, the Farm Services Agency did not submit a determination of effects on endangered species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by law.

The Buffalo National River is America’s first national river. In 2011, over 1 million visitors to the river spent over $38 million in surrounding communities, creating jobs, attending festivals, and supporting local businesses. Canoe and kayak enthusiasts, equestrians, hikers, fisherman, and birders enjoy the 132 mile free flowing river. Elk, deer and turkey, along with more than 300 species of fish, freshwater mussels, insects, and aquatic plants depend on the Buffalo, America’s first National River. A hog farm could jeopardize this economic benefit for the State of Arkansas and impact local communities.

“On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association’s over 800,000 members and supporters, we call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to work cooperatively to pull this permit,

Friday, March 29, 2013

Joe Neal cites passage from Neil Compton's writing

We have what looks like an all-day rain in Fayetteville today -- good set up for spring migration. The Cerulean Warblers of Cave Mountain just gotta be headed our way! But until then:

I have been using some of the rain/lightning time to read text and to enjoy photographs in Neil Compton's The High Ozarks A Vision of Eden (Ozark Society Foundation 1982). We no longer have Dr Compton to take us on a hike up his favorite Buffalo River trail, but we do have this book, including his thoughts about what all of this means -- ALL, in the broad sense. 

Here is some text from the book's epilogue. Ah text -- and I do not mean texting. It didn't exist in his time and he did not think in brief:

Those who draw inspiration from reflection on the processes of creation and the discovery of evidence of the genesis of the land and its inhabitants, will not explore the deep recesses of these ancient hills without reward. To come upon a mass of fossil fuquoids (algal impressions), a coral head, or an array of archimedes screws (molluscs) in a rocky creek bed, is a basic satisfaction to almost all and begets an enduring fascination in some. But all evidence is not present as fossils frozen in stone. The living proof is all about, even yet, in forms little changed over many millions of years. The very first of all living green things is here for us to see, the blue-green and green and brown algae waving in the current of Ozark springs and in all our ponds and creeks at certain seasons. We are not attracted by its sliminess but should recall that this was the first oxygen-generating life form in any quantity, thus initiating the change from the stifling, reducing atmosphere of the newborn earth to the life giving oxidizing air that we now breathe. This humble photosynthetic plant has been in residence here, unchanged in form and function, in seas, lakes, and rivers for over two billion years . . .

There are many who are emotionally convinced that we played no part at allthat we arrived by special arrangement and thus are alien to this natural worldwhich we may think is here for our immediate utility onlyBut somehow we must all come to realize that our fate has been, and'always will beinseparable from what transpires on the face of the earth and above it and within it. We were indeed therea fragile tissuein that amnionthat ancient sea of nativityalong with a myriad othersbut on our way to understandingWith the powethat we now find in our hands it is imperative that we exercise that ability to knoand manipulate the truth of things, which has finally come to usnot for the betterment ofourselves aloneWmust include as well an understanding and protection of this whole glorious process so well revealed herin this lovely and provident land.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Buffalo River and Ninestone Land Trust and water-quality rules: Joe Neal today

When those two words: louisiana AND waterthrush come up, what lights up are rushing streams, boulders, pawpaw trees, and forested slopes, pleasures over the years of hiking, camping, bird watching, fun times in clean cool water with my daughter Ariel and her friends.

In technical jargon, Louisiana Waterthrushes are long-distance, forest-interior, neotropical migrants. They occur in quite a few places along streams in northwest Arkansas, but I always enjoy them especially during trips over to the upper Buffalo. I was thinking about that while reading an email from Judith Griffith at Ninestone Land Trust in Carroll County. March has not even turned to April and she has already seen 9 Louisiana Waterthrushes banded during the course of Leesia Marshall's research there! Ninestone is another special place, period, and especially if you have waterthrushes on the mind.

As pollution problems have become more complex, there has been a growing interest in how water quality is impacted by human land use and especially how some species might serve as biological indicators. Leesia's PhD is entitled, "Territories, territoriality, and conservation of the Louisiana Waterthrush and its habitat, the watershed of the Upper Buffalo National River."

What Leesia found was that as water in Buffalo tributaries became more polluted, nesting territories for waterthrushes became longer; some disappeared. Some of this problem has to do with the impact of pollution on aquatic insect communities. So waterthrushes may be good indicators of biological integrity. As for a host of other neotropical migratory songbirds – how about Kentucky Warbler here -- it is reasonable to infer negative impacts for other native avian insectivores if pollution levels increase in the Buffalo and its tributaries.

Protection of the Buffalo and such places should be a slam dunk, but in fact only 40% of the Buffalo watershed is part of the national river or under other state and Federal ownership. That leaves 60% of the watershed where land clearing and confined animal feeding operations (CAFO; like the hog factory under construction at Mt Judea in Newton County) increase incompatible negative impacts, even when state environmental rules are followed.

That's always the rub: millions visit the Buffalo who don't live there but do pay local, state, and Federal taxes and therefore have a legitimate stake in the park and its biological integrity. Local folks who live in the watershed have to have a way to make a living and not all of them can make it off the recreation industry. In terms of conflict and drama, it's a made-for-Hollywood script ready for prime time. 

And it is always the same, whether it involves attempts to protect tropical forests from illegal logging or save elephants from ivory hunters -- or in our case, protect this beautiful, native bird-rich, free-flowing river in the far away Ozarks of Arkansas.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Joe Neal addresses Fayetteville's Environmental Action Committee on feral-cat ordinance

March 2013 meeting of Fayetteville Environmental Action Committee

  • EAC Follow Up - Ferral Cats and Enduring Green Network‏

peter nierengart​en (
4:31 PM
To: Connie Crisp, James Barton
Cc:,, Sarah Marsh, Yolanda Fields,,, Dana Smith,,,,,,,
Thanks to those who attended last week's EAC meeting.  As a follow up to the ferral cat issues discussed at that meeting, we have asked the City Attorney for his interpretation of the Audubon's proposed amendment to the City's Ferral Cat Ordinance that would require ferral cat colony caretaker to contain the cats.  The City Attorney advised that it would not be practical to add this amendment to the existing ordinance.  The City Attorney, Yolanda Field and I all agree that Audubon's proposed containment amendment would make the existing ordinance more onerous for potential caretakers would likely prevent anyone from adopting an existing colonies.
At last week's meeting EAC members voted to compile a list of questions related to Audobon's proposed amendment and forward those questions to the Animal Service Advisory Committee which meets on Monday, April 8th.  Please forward those questions to me and I will compile and transmit them to Yolanda Fields.  As you compile your questions, I invite you to watch/listen to the October 2nd City Council Meeting from last year when this ordinance was debated:
In other news I received notice today from the Planning Department about a project located inside the Enduring Green Network that will be heard by City Council next Tuesday night.  The 17 acre site is located near the intersection of Gregg and Van Ashe along Scull/Mud Creeks and is being rezoned from C-1 to P-1 in an effort to build a future charter school (Hass Hall).  According to the Development Services Department, the site was graded and raised above the flood plain several years ago and therefore many of the sensitive features originally associated with the site were removed at that time.  This link contains the planning report associated with the rezoning request:
Peter Nierengarten, PE - LEED AP
Director of Sustainability & Strategic Planning
City of Fayetteville
479-575-8272 Phone
479-521-1316  TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf)

Joe Neal: Ultimate quacking and peeping glory

Please click on images to enlarge.
  • ultimate quacking and peeping glory (March 23)‏

joe neal (
7:48 AM

Starting temperature was just enough over 30 occasional mists never turned to ice during Saturday's Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip to Shores Lake and Fern in the Ozark NF. Since cold, wet, windy was predicted all day, I was betting we'd be a gang of 5, or less. Instead, when we met field trip leader Bill Beall and his wife Toka, we totaled amazing 15. 
Joe Neal photo March 23 2013

This late March trip is ritual. Y'all out there in predictable Brown-headed Nuthatch country see them (yawns here) at feeders. But they were extirpated from shortleaf pine forests in the western Ozarks long ago.  Bill has tracked what seems the last of their western Ozarks kind around Fern. So that's the draw: find locally rare, little, squeaky, upside down birds. How ya doin' up there little birds? 

In the grey cool, we had them squeaking high in the pines. After easy White-breasteds and Red-breasteds, we had numero tres.

After our coveted nuthatch trifecta, we headed down in the Arkansas valley around Frog Bayou WMA. First stop, shallow, flooded rice fields on Blackland Road. AKA, teal heaven. All I could see was 10 to 20 acres of Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals, Northern Pintails, big bad Gadwalls, brilliantly attired Northern Shovelers.

Somewhere in there was a Cinnamon Teal, I was soooo sure of it, and by the time I had lead our parade down Blackland Road to where that reddist of teals was hiding . . . we were wheels spinning, cars sliding . . . Humiliating backing up scene here.

And of course by then all of duckdom was rising in a vast sweeping cloud, an ultimate quacking and peeping glory, high above the mud, way down the rice field, taking our overly dreamed for Cinnamon Teal, or whatever, much, much further, devil bird tempting and luring.

We got out of there, but not with dignity to spare.

Like nuthatches in the Ozarks, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in the valley is ritual for this trip. Bill saw them here first maybe 15 years ago? Once again, he delivered, 20 at King Ranch, near the Alma sewer ponds, as advertised.

Jim Neiting had been seeing shorebirds and ducks en masse on a sod farm adjacent the river near Van Buren and he had pictures on his camera. Muck far behind us, I was re-seized by XXL supersize birding hysteria. Long-billed Curlews! Cinnamon Teal! 

We had scopes out at the end of the day, on the shoulder of a very busy Highway 59. A compact flock of at least 90 Wilson's Snipe (hey, those are big bills!) patrolled the sod. A scattering of American Golden-Plovers cleverly deployed under a massive traveling sprinkler. Passing drivers were upping speed to avoid us zombies. 

Who else would be standing outside on such a day? Who would scanning the mist and awesome ducks for one redder?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Joe Neal: A parody on the ADEQ's absurd ruling on Hog Pen in Buffalo River watershed

Just in case you have put another "lifer" under your birdwatcher's belt and are feeling pretty sanguine about Arkansas "The Natural State" and its many habitats for birds, I want to let you know that I have decided to build a hog factory in my backyard here in Fayetteville, home of the Arkansas Razorbacks, "Athens of the Ozarks." Not to worry. And, by the way, this is your formal notice. 
I'm unsure how nesting Northern Cardinals, Great Crested Flycatchers, Brown Thrashers, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Gray Catbirds, and Carolina Wrens are going to feel about it. But under Arkansas law, how they feel about it, and how it may impact their lives and families, is not an issue. 
 The State of Arkansas, The Natural State, the Vacation Paradise, has given its blessing. I guess that means our state bird, the Northern Mockingbird, has also given its blessing, though I have not received formal feedback from the one that nests up by my driveway and sings on summer nights there. I've heard no voting quacks from overflying Mallards.
I don't have Dianas in my yard, so I'm not concerned about the state butterfly.
I'm turning the back half of my 1-acre into a hog waste holding pond. I'm pretty sure it will hold wastes under most rain events, but in case, it can flow into an unnamed springfed branch of Scull Creek, then under College Avenue, then down past Wilson Park, along the bike trail, and eventually into the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma.
I'm pretty sure it won't damage the environment, or the neighbor's yards, or the resale value of their homes, won't impact them every time they draw a breath. And hope you don't mind "pretty sure." But then, if it does, that's why god gave us the OOPS word. I have the legal blessing of our Natural State environmental quality agency. Oops is OK.
I have been bird watching for years, but increasingly, it doesn't pay. Hence, my hog factory and the nice big federal loan I got. I want to thank all Federal tax payers for helping out this poor ole boy on Cleburn Street. The paperwork wasn't as tough as you might think. Didn't hire any biologists. Didn't consult any of you bird watchers. No worry about little cave critters down there. What the neighbors think about it doesn't matter.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Joe Neal report on Horned Grebes at Beaver Lake in northwest arkansas

  • Horned Grebes getting their horns‏

joe neal (
The Horned Grebes (~25) on Beaver Lake are busy trading smart winter black & whites for their even smarter black necks & backs & golden plumes, offset with a deep red eye. Even with today's north wind and choppy water, it was plainly evident where all of this is headed.

Joan Reynolds and I were parked sideways in the Arkansas Game & Fish boat launch off highway 12, east of Rogers overlooking big wide water in the Prairie Creek area. Easy birding pretty, scope on the window, pretty much out of the cool north wind.

After grebes, smart mostly whites of a few Ring-billed Gulls, perched in a rough formation on a small island. Then a Common Loon, which like the grebes, has been busy trading whites and grays of winter for black heads and backs with black & white checks. 4 of 5 loons visible from highway 12 looked like they were ready for one or another of the various versions of Loon Lake way up north, or would be, with just a little more molt.

Also out over choppy water, Tree Swallows. Some have already taken up residence involving boxes at AG &F's nursery pond, as a swallow flies, not far from where we were parked.