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  1. Secret Summer Garden of the Ozarks

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    June 4, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    I can’t decide what is best: swamp milkweed with masses of reddish-pink flowers well-attended by lady beetles and butterflies? Big colonies of what in later summer will be 8-foot tall sawtooth sunflowers attended by goldfinches on yellow flower heads, sky scraping sky blue? Or the buttonbushes, blooming right now, deep green with perfectly round white spheres of flowers, attended by monarch butterflies?

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  2. A New Bird for Arkansas

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    May 22, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    “You are going to think I am crazy, but I just saw and photographed a GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH next to the visitor center parking lot here at Mount Magazine State Park!!!!”

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  3. Season of Migrants and Baby Birds

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    May 8, 2012 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.

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  4. For Bobwhites and Buses

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    April 23, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    Everywhere I go in northwest Arkansas giving bird programs people ask me about birds they used to see here, but don’t see now very often. Lots of the old-timers remember bobwhite quail, that pleasant, whistled BOB WHITE! So do I. My answer to such questions is usually the same: it’s about habitat. Like people, birds have specific needs. If the habitat needs aren’t met, it’s . . . well . . . bye bye birdie. Washington County voters have an opportunity on May 22 that speaks to part of this issue. Birds won’t be on the ballot, but the question considered can help. The ballot involves one penny tax on each four dollars spent, with pennies and dollars set aside to support and expand local transportation for all the people — I’ll just say buses for short. More buses and more ways and places to ride them ultimately translates into fewer cars and less habitat destruction. During the past 40 odd years I’ve had chances to vote on vexing issues involving sales taxes. I have usually favored lower taxes and so I’ve voted against many taxes. But expanding towns and cities have reduced quality habitat for all kinds of plants …

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  5. Three Teal Species, Plus Golden Plovers

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    April 10, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    Down around Fort Smith old cut-off Arkansas River meanders refilled after heavy rain in late March. Meanders are the big bends in the natural river as it winds its way toward the Mississippi.

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  6. A Little Place Called ‘Heronton’

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    March 15, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    Great Blue Herons are standing on nests in the Illinois River bottomlands rookery west of Tontitown, on the road to Siloam Springs. Number of nests, about 35. Number of adults perched improbably atop mature trees, about 39. Nests are in tall white sycamores, forming picturesque contrast with winter grays of Wedington Ridge in the Ozark National Forest. I call the place Heronton. It’s one of the oldest “towns” in Northwest Arkansas. It’s the place where Great Blue Herons come to nest. You narrowly catch the festivities even at 65mph on Highway 412 as you cross the Illinois. Narrowly, because we’re dashing across that efficient bridge — with one eye on busy herons, another on that thunderous onrush of our times — 18-wheelers, pick-ups, my Toyota  — and with that active third eye, the mind, simultaneously sorting affairs of family and business — and probably on the phone  — our destiny . There seems no place to stop and take in the whole, including Heronton. I am reminded of how fast we travel, how restricted our space, like we’re astronauts in a capsule, cowboys and cowgirls blasting through 14 billion years of matter. A Great Blue flies toward the sycamores, providing us …

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  7. Loon Fever

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    February 24, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    Loons migrate through Northwest Arkansas during spring and fall. But Common Loons, scientific name Gavia immer, are never common. A productive November day is 10, and in winter, a single bird or two. It was a big deal when a single loon wintered on Lake Fayetteville last year. I’ve seen zero on Beaver Lake this winter. Tenkiller Ferry Lake, Okla., is in the Ozarks, an impoundment of the Illinois River that rises near Fayetteville. It does not have this problem. Common Loons are common at Tenkiller. I expect to see 100 a day without special effort. Common Loons are joined by much lower numbers of Pacific Loons, Red-throated Loons, and the occasional Yellow-billed Loon. Distance wise, it’s like a run up to Beaver dam. Tenkiller’s winter birding fun-o-meter is activated in big open spots like Snake Creek Park. Fifty Common Loons parade on Feb. 1, but a single bird far away on the other side swims with its neck extended and bill sometimes pointed up, rather than on the level. It could be a Red-throated or even a Yellow-billed Loon. It is almost a half-mile away. My operational rule of thumb is that the further away the bird, the more …

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