This year, teams could do their big day on any date during April 29 to May 21. Data show that the first week of May is typically the peak of migration for Arkansas, and at least four teams took advantage of that. Two teams watched birds from their yards all day, while six teams roamed around the state in pursuit of birds.
The Perpetually Exhausted Pigeons concluded another great big day on May 6 with great results - 127 species observed over 24 long, grueling hours. Following their tried and true tactic, they left Little Rock at an uncomfortably early time. Their first stop was Bald Knob NWR to nab owls. Though they struck out with owls, they lingered until sunrise where they made up for everything by finding a very rare Lark Bunting (6th state record!) that attracted many birders later that day. While there, they scored a favorite of everyone on the term, the early morning call of Northern Bobwhite coveys, Bell's Vireo, and a very angry Painted Bunting. They also managed to come across a jumpy group of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. Craighead Forest Park was exploding with activity mid-morning, with the normal warbler and vireo party happening. After lunch, they returned to Bald Knob for shorebirds. Though there weren’t many shorebirds, they found a Louisiana Waterthrush dancing its way across the bank. A quick visit to the Little Rock Port Authority yielded its usuals: Bobolinks, Western Kingbirds, and Loggerhead Shrikes. Over at the Big Dam Bridge, a Bald Eagle buzzed the bridge to everyone's amusement. Finally, they retreated home to finish the day at their feeders. This proved a great move, with a number of sparrows fluttering in for a visit. Once the sun set, they truly had become the Perpetually Exhausted Pigeons. They tallied 127 species.
The GeoBirbs had a great third year of yard birding, exceeding their goal of 35 species by one! They enjoyed many of the backyard regulars--titmouse, chickadees, cardinals, and robins--and also saw colorful migrants, including Indigo Buntings, Baltimore Orioles, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Keeping their eyes on the oak canopy all day also paid off with four warbler species: American Redstart and Black-and-white, Black-throated Green, and Tennessee Warblers.
Audubon Society of Central Arkansas’s team birded on May 13. Led by field trip coordinator Karen Holliday, 17 birders from around Arkansas started at Gillam Park for a day of looking for spring migrants. It was overcast and cool so birds were slow to show. Wood Thrushes were singing and Wood Ducks whistled as they flew overhead. Wilson's Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swifts, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were first-of-seasons for several. The next stop was the Valero gas station at Fourche Dam Pike for the Great-tailed Grackles strutting around and being their usual noisy selves. The group then drove a loop around the Little Rock Port Authority where they found Western Kingbirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Bobolinks, plus a bonus Northern Bobwhite. Terry Lock and Dam was the hotspot for the day. Birds were everywhere! The group saw eight species of warblers, four vireo species, both orioles, Painted Buntings, Cedar Waxwings, plus several other species. They ended with four Least Terns diving into the river. The group tallied 67 species. Everyone headed home hot, sweaty, sunburned, and very pleased. Several added state or life birds their lists.
The Backyard Tweethearts birded from their yard in Clarksville. They wanted to do something special in memory of Molly, the Fire Safety Dog, who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on December 27, 2022. Molly loved sitting outside watching birds with her owner Dayna and little brother Boden, so Dayna couldn't think of a more perfect activity to participate in: birding to support the work of the Audubon while honoring Molly. They had the most pawmazing time counting their feathered friends who visited "Molly's Firehouse Bird Garden" (a backyard sanctuary made for the birds after Molly passed)! They were excited to tally 23 species and added a couple new species to their yard list! It was a great day for birding! Follow their birding adventures at https://www.facebook.com/mollysfirehouse.
Team M Gidonax dedicated their day to just a couple of sites, spending most of the day at Bald Knob NWR. The goal was migrating shorebirds, but the passerine migrants stole the show. A series of willow-lined ponds and ditches yielded multiple warblers and other migrants, including Northern Waterthrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and a very vocal Least Flycatcher. Shorebirds were few and far between, with Least and Pectoral Sandpipers the dominant species. A surprise report of a Lark Bunting came in less than a mile or two away. They successfully chased this lifer with the help of other birders. A lone juvenile Horned Lark provided the group with some consternation, as none had seen this bird in its juvenile state. On the way back home, they stopped by Little Rock Port Authority and picked up a Pied-billed Grebe, Western Kingbird, and several Great-tailed Grackles. Once home, they chased a few misses and picked up Chipping Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, House Finch, and Orchard Oriole at and around the feeders. Overall, they tallied 113 species, their best effort when birding together.
This year the Thrashers returned with a new member, Ariana Remmel. With Ariana's keen eyes and driving skills, they traversed hundreds of miles around Arkansas on May 1, picking up 141 species. It was a windy day, but the birds were still out in force. Highlights include dozens of Palm Warblers, several flocks of 20 or more Indigo Buntings, and great views of three Swainson's Hawks, including a first-year bird perched on the ground. They didn't quite hit their goal of 150, but they had the best count day yet for their team and they look forward to trying again next year.
Early Birds and the Worms began their big day at 3 AM on May 13. As usual they heard Chuck-will’s-widows, Eastern Whip-poor-wills, and Eastern Screech-Owl on Ross Hollow Rd. As the sky lightened and the dawn chorus commenced they found open country birds along Higginbotham Rd., then forest birds in Ouachita National Forest around Lake Sylvia. During migration the low-lying agricultural areas along the Arkansas River are heavily birded hotspots where a variety of goodies are found. In Atkins Bottoms, migrating Swainson’s Hawks were easily found, but no luck with Yellow-headed Blackbirds. They located a few Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, but not the rare Fulvous Whistling-Duck that had been reported with them the day before. At Lollie Bottoms, a male Painted Bunting startled them when it momentarily landed on the car side-view mirror in response to playback. At Bald Knob, a pasture on Albert Hill Rd. yielded Grasshopper Sparrows, while Western Kingbirds were found at an electrical substation. Bald Knob NWR itself, and nearby fish farms, were disappointingly low on birds. As the final hour of daylight began, they resolved to bird hard and finish strong. They got Great-tailed Grackle at Galloway. En route to the Little Rock Port Authority they were pleasantly surprised by a flock of White Ibis overhead. The port produced their long-sought Loggerhead Shrike and American Kestrel, plus another surprise flyover flock of Little Blue Herons! Last but not least they added Purple Martin and Common Nighthawk at the Little Rock Audubon Center. At 9:00 PM, after 18 hours, 380 miles, and 118 species, they called it a day, a tiring yet satisfying day.
Altogether the 8 teams tallied 192 species. Of those, 38 were seen by only one team, including Gadwall, Wild Turkey, Common Gallinule, American Golden-Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Least Tern, Common Loon, Cattle Egret, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Willow Flycatcher, Bank Swallow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Marsh Wren, Veery, Pine Siskin, Vesper Sparrow, Golden-winged Warbler, and Purple Finch. The Thrashers tallied the greatest number of species among the field teams (141). The most species seen among the yard teams goes to the GeoBirbs (36).
Audubon Delta thanks all the birders for devoting their time and talent to the event, and for helping to raise funds and friends. Together we raised $5,400 for conservation and education programs in Arkansas! Time to start strategizing for next year!