Thursday, January 31, 2013

Joe Neal still watching red crossbills at FCC

 followed a flock of 20-25 Red Crossbills for an hour this morning at FCC but it was too windy for sound recordings.

At one point they dropped out of a pine tree to the ground in front of me (20 feet) for water in a shallow depression filled from recent rain. If they were concerned about my presence, it wasn't obvious. Their varied plumage colors, large bills, strong feet, gregarious behavior, all reminded me of descriptions of Carolina Parakeets.

This morning I posted some information about a crossbill story I did for KUAF. Here is a direct link:

Joe Neal's recording of Red crossbill birds on public radio Web site

Joe Neal reports:
I recorded a story about this winter's Red Crossbills at Fayetteville Country Club for the National Public Radio station here in northwest Arkansas, KUAF, 91.3 FM. It aired yesterday, January 30, on Ozarks at large (OAL). Right now the segment is on the current OAL page at:

Scroll down the page until you see it.

After this page changes, you can always search the OAL programs and recall it. The segment is about 7 minutes and includes audio recordings from FCC. Jacqueline Froelich produced the story. There is a handy link to Matt Young's Red Crossbill call type paper and a photograph by Joan Reynolds of a female crossbill prying open scales on a pine cone.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Joe Neal reports from Kessler Mountain: Save the habitat now

Last night I was up on Kessler Mountain, in southwest Fayetteville, in a spring rain, with Mitchell Pruitt, he of 311 Arkansas bird species in one year, now UA-Fayetteville freshman. We were not birding. We were looking for spotted salamanders.

We found them, plus a bonus:  a robust Greek chorus of spring peepers. Did anyone mention it was January 29th?

There is an effort to save at least 400 acres of rugged, rocky top Kessler as park and natural area. Part of the mountain holds an old growth forest of chestnut oak. On top there is an elfin forest of stunted post oaks and a shale glade with native grasses.

Fayetteville is growing up the slopes and beyond. In terms of habitat protection, it is now or never. The efforts to protect Kessler are headed up by my old friend Frank Sharp, he of the famous Ozark Mountain Smokehouse.

Come spring, Neotropical migrants will dominate the rocky slopes. Based upon birding over the years, it will be Summer Tanagers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Yellow-throated Vireos, Black-and-white Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Great Crested Flycatchers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, probably Wood Thrushes, and the like.

This list will swell temporarily as Neotropical migratory songbirds pass through Fayetteville for nesting elsewhere: Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler.

Mitchell and I had Kessler more or less to ourselves last night. Actually, Kessler belonged to spotted salamanders and peepers. Neotropical songbirds lie in the immediate future. We got to enjoy an ancient rite.

Portland, Oregon, where my daughter Ariel lives, saved a 5,000 acre forest years ago. This expansive green space is an internationally renowned springboard for making Portland one of the most livable cities in the world.

Yes, cities need businesses, jobs, and neighborhoods. Cities that work also require expansive green as an essential raw material fueling productivity. Otherwise, they are vast prisons shackling our genius and spirit.  

So about the future: based upon what we do and how well we understand our self-interest as a community, Kessler can be where salamanders walk to ephemeral pools after heavy rains and where Neotropical songbirds continue ancient Ozark Mountains ways. And also where common folks like you and I enjoy them.

In this process, we refresh our spirits. That’s what I hear in that Greek chorus of peepers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Playing in the West Fork of the White River with extreme weather bringing potential flooding isn't a smart idea


Birding and habitat-improvement event list from Joe Neal

A series of birding and habitat improvement events are upcoming in February and early March around NW Arkansas:
On Saturday February 2, starting 9 AM, we are birding Eagle Watch Nature Trail just west of Gentry. Eagles have been in abundance at EW and immediate vicinity recently.
On Saturday February 16, starting 9 AM, NWAAS is partnering with Devil’s Den State Park for a Great Backyard Birding Event. Easy walking.
On Saturday February 23, we are heading out to Ninestone Land Trust in Carroll County for (1) fun and (2) habitat improvement work as part of the Together Green program.
On Saturday March 2, we are back at Eagle Watch Nature Trail for (1) fun and (2) habitat improvement work as part of the Together Green program.
There is quite a bit more information about these events on the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society Facebook page and also on the NWAAS web site. If you are particularly interested in Together Green, please contact Michelle Viney at Audubon Arkansas mviney@AUDUBON.ORG

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rock wren, Spotted sandpiper, Merlin and Red Crossbills on Joe Neal's bird outing on 24 January 2013

Joyce Shedell from Highfill, Brenda Mullins from Lowell, and I saw 26 Red Crossbills at Fayetteville Country Club this morning. We also had close looks at a Merlin.

I heard a flock as soon as I arrived at 9 AM, but we walked for an hour or so in a cool NE breeze before Joyce spotted birds in a small leafless tree that proved to be crossbills. We had good spotting scope looks, not as picturesque as birds up in the pine cones, but you can sure the bill cross well out in the open the way we had them this morning.

Crossbills and a Merlin have been at FCC since some time in November.

After crossbills we went out to the Noland wastewater treatment facility. We quickly saw the Spotted Sandpiper there, and then the Rock Wren.
By Joe Neal

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Red Crossbills in south Fayetteville continue to draw Joe Neal and other birders intent on discovering how many varieties/species are visiting Arkansas this year

   My audio recordings from December 7 and 10 at Fayetteville Country Club were analyzed by Matt Young at Cornell. These showed flocks included at least three crossbill song types: Ponderosa Pine Crossbill, Western Hemlock Crossbill, and Lodgepole Pine Crossbill. Now there is possibly another.
    Today was warm and sunny with very little wind, a fine day to hear and record sound.  The course was all but deserted when we drove up. Joan Reynolds stepped out of the car and IMMEDIATELY had a crossbill, then 10, in view from the parking lot. We checked in at the pro shop, got a friendly OK, and then on to crossbills calling from 4 or 5 trees not far from the club house.
    Song type is used to separate as many as 9-10 possible species now referred to as Red Crossbills. If they are eventually split into separate species, this will pump up the state list from the current 413 shown by Charles Mills.
    Most voices from December had seemed pretty high-pitched, almost metallic, but there were also some buzzy callers. FLIP-FLIP calls today included December types, BUT now also one LOWER in pitch -- altos. I didn't hear altos in December, so of course I'm all primed up to think we have yet another type. If so, it would be fore for the country club . . . OK, four.
    We had a flight of 24 crossbills at one point, with many other birds still visible in the pines. So how many crossbills today? Maybe 50. How many altos? At least several. Who are these altos? I have prepped an MP3 sound file and emailed it to Matt Young. I'll post the results.
    Besides Joan and I, there were three other birders sharing the course with Sunday morning golfers. One player we met mentioned a fine crossbill photograph now hanging at the club. This was a bit of generosity by David Oakley, golfer-birder-photographer.
    Such thoughtfulness enlarges the tent of interest.

Friday, January 11, 2013

May 17, 2013, dedication of Terre Noire Preserve

Terre Noire Preserve Dedication. 

Terre Noire near Arkadelphia is one of the best remaining blackland prairies in the state, and in mid-May it should be putting on a lovely wildflower display.  Come celebrate the Conservancy’s recent addition of 369 acres to the Terre Noire conservation area with Audubon Arkansas and the Sierra Club and see for yourself what makes it so special.  We’ll have brief remarks and light refreshments followed by an easy walk out onto the preserve.  Funding for this Terre Noire acquisition was made possible by Audubon Arkansas and the Sierra Club.

From: Fennell, Ellen []
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2013 11:19 AM
To: Glen Hooks; Scott Simon
Cc: Tom McKinney; Annie Feltus
Subject: RE: Terre Noire Preserve Dedication date May 17th

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Joe Neal touts Bruce Shackleford's pamphlet, "Go native when you go green"

What to plant? What NOT to plant? What trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and wildflowers work best here? These are all issues that come up when we connect bird diversity with plants.
Bruce Shackleford, president of Environmental Consulting Operations, Inc prepared an interesting pamphlet, "Go native when you go green. Making the right choices to keep the natural heritage of the Ozarks in northwest Arkansas." There's what TO plant and what NOT to plant. You can find the pamphlet here on the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society web site:

This is a page still under development with more content to come. The Shackleford pamphlet is there now, as well as a link to Audubon Arkansas's list of plants suitable for birds and butterflies in Arkansas.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 19, 2013, Audubon field trip at Rocky Branch plus Birding presentation by Joe Neal at Hobbes State Park

On Saturday January 19, 2013, meet members and friends of Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society for a field trip to Rocky Branch on Beaver Lake.  Meet at 9 AM at the Rocky Branch marina parking area. Species typical of the lake in winter include include Pied-billed and Horned Grebes, Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed Gulls, Common Goldeneyes, Bald Eagle, possible Common Loon. Depending on the weather, we can also bird the cedar glade and upland shortleaf pine areas for woodland birds (like Pine Warbler).

This will also be Wonders of Winter Wildlife Weekend at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. Come to a presentation by Joe Neal about local winter birds starting at 2 PM at Hobbs visitor’s center. Snacks will be available.

If you remain for both events, you can purchase sandwiches at Finnegan's Store on Highway 12. Also, check the schedule for the cafe at picturesque and often birdy War Eagle Mill, just south on Highway 303. 

All NWAAS field trips are free and open to the public. We always welcome new members, but membership in NWAAS is not a requirement for participation. We try to make our field trips accessible to everyone, all ages & all abilities. Beginning birders are always welcome. We have field trips on Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate different schedules. We try to arrange carpools where possible.

For maps and more information about these places, check the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society web site and the section “Places to bird in northwest Arkansas” (on the left side of the home page).

Joe Neal touts driving tour of prairie areas near Siloam Springs: See link for PDF view on official NWA Audubon Web site

Now available as a PDF file from Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society: Lindsley's Prairie Auto Tour, a drivable and observable loop through the former Lindsley's Prairie at Siloam Springs. This includes both Chesney Prairie Natural Area and the privately owned, but still accessible Stump Prairie. NWAAS web master Richard Stauffacher has it on this page:

There is a lot to observe along the tour. It should be of interest to everyone, including those with mobility limitations, since all of this can be treated as a "windshield survey" or you can get out of the car and observe along public roads, plus Chesney and Stump -- or not -- as mobility and time allow.