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Season of Migrants and Baby Birds

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May 8, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

Killdeer nest with eggs.

Killdeer nest with eggs.

By Joseph C. Neal

It’s the season of migrants and baby birds. Speckle-breasted baby American Robins are out in the yard, hunted by neighborhood cats. Owls are out in the day light, trying to feed ravenous young.

I was thinking about this during a recent visit to Beaver Lake. “It truly IS a nursery pond,” is the way Joan Reynolds of Rogers put it on an early May field trip. We were at the Beaver Lake Nursery Pond, a fish-rearing facility east of Rogers. The 150-acre site, including the big, shallow 30-acre fish-rearing pond, juts dramatically out into the lake. It’s also rearing fingerling birds.

We spent a very brief time looking at a Killdeer nest on the pond levee. I’d seen 4 eggs on April 8. Today there were 2 still wet, just-hatched chicks, egg tooth intact, snug up against 2 visibly hatching eggs, and a frantically displaying adult.

While some birds are already rearing young, others are still in migration. Out in the pond were American Coots (3), Lesser Scaup (3), Blue-winged Teal (35), Northern Shoveler (2), Mallard (2), and American Wigeon (1 adult female) – all migrants. But an adult female Wood Duck with flotilla of 8 recently-hatched ducklings was there, too. Not far away were at least seven adult male Wood Ducks. This area is full of snags and other nest possibilities, so I assume this may be the first of several Wood Duck flotillas to come. If so, it rivals the famous Boxley mill pond as champion northwest Arkansas Wood Duck incubator.

“Bluebird” boxes around the levee are full mostly of Tree Swallows, but also some Eastern Bluebirds. The swallows don’t fly or fly reluctantly. Most were the classy-looking metallic blue-green, but one pair featured an adult of this plumage – I assume the male — plus another adult mighty handsome brown above – the female. Our impression was that incubation was underway, but we left the boxes, and their contents, in peace.

A mudflat was occupied by migrating sandpipers including Lesser Yellowlegs (7), Spotted Sandpiper (8), Semipalmated Sandpiper (25), Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper (2), plus ducks, frogs, etc. But there were also 10 adult Canada Geese and 2 family groups of yellow fuzzy goslings.

At least 4 Orchard Orioles were carrying on what appeared frenzied courtship. Snags between the pond and the lake featured Prothonotary Warbler (2 spots) and Red-headed Woodpecker (1). We watched an adult male Yellow Warbler in willows; I wonder if they might be nesting here? Joan spotted 5 medium-sized white terns far out on the lake that were possibly Forster’s, also migrating north.

The nursery pond, a joint effort by the Army Corps of Engineers and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, was built in 1987 with federal aid tax dollars. It’s open to the public. And while its main bizness is fish, it is a great place to see birds and other wildlife.

 

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