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,