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Posts Tagged ‘bird notes’

  1. For Bobwhites and Buses

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    April 23, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    Northern Bobwhite male - r

    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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  2. 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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  3. Loon Fever

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    February 24, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    bird_notes_logo-150x150

    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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  4. Don’t Forget the Herons ​

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    February 13, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    Great Blue Heron and American Coot

    The annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) begins Friday, Feb. 17 and goes through the weekend. I’m going to Devil’s Den State Park on Friday to get things started. Y’all Observer readers are mighty welcome. I’ll meet anyone interested in the parking area adjacent Lee Creek bridge in the park at 9 a.m. This is a user-friendly event. You are welcome to come for as little or as much of the day as you want. Yes, it’s OK to just stay 30 minutes. You can even come late and join us after the “official” start, but in that case you’ll have to hunt us up. You don’t need to be some kind of smart alecky bird expert to be a “citizen scientist” on Friday or for that matter, anytime through the weekend. Just being interested and having a little time is enough. It’s also almost too easy to be real. In terms of effort and inconvenience, this will rival having to heft off the couch in search of the channel changer. That is, you will have to shake a leg to participate on Friday, but not too hard. And best of all, it will be fun. Everyone’s effort for GBBC will help …

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  5. The Snowy Owl’s Occasional Southern Trip

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    January 20, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal

    snowy owl

    This is a winter when Snowy Owls that nest in the far, far north, come south for at least part of the winter. It’s not every winter, either. There are Snowy Owls in northern Missouri and north-central Oklahoma. For the past few weeks, I have included the Snowy Owl pursuit as part of my routine around Northwest Arkansas. These are big owls, mostly white with dark accents. At a distance, lots of com- mon things can make this impression: Walmart bags in brush, bleached cow bones in a pasture, white Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission boundary signs around Chesney Prairie Natural Area, a white five-gallon bucket in weeds next to a pond, a light-colored ball of baling string hung up on a fence, a big white stump, Walmart bags in trees, even a very pale, young Red-tailed Hawk with its head tucked. I’ve never seen a Snowy Owl except for an injured bird in the Portland zoo. Back there someplace in my mind that I don’t know well — the expansive terra incognita from which wells the magma of so many hard-to-describe feelings and desires – from that place, I feel the swells and exploratory energies of desire. Then comes the …

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  6. ‘I Don’t Like People Taking Pictures of My Cows’

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    December 10, 2011 by Joseph C. Neal

    Common Grackles and European Starlings appear to be the main components of large blackbird roosts developing in my Fayetteville neighborhood. This is an annual event, as soon as we begin to have nighttime freezing. The birds roost together for various reasons, but a key one is that they are warmer in mass than individually.

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  7. The Eagle Has … Returned

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    November 24, 2011 by Joseph C. Neal

    eagle

    We have Bald Eagles every year in Arkansas, including nesting birds. But there was a time, 25 years ago, when Bald Eagles were all but extinct in the state. Just to remind everybody: these eagles plus many other kinds of large birds, including many hawks and pelicans, were hard hit by the widespread use of certain chemicals on crops. The most infamous was DDT. When DDT began to show up in human mother’s milk, protective laws were finally enacted. What was designed to protect mother also protected big birds, like Bald Eagles. They bounced back from a single nest in the entire state in the early 1980s, to over 100 now. There are at least three known nests around Beaver Lake. ​ The take home message: sensible laws that protect our health and well-being can also protect the health and well-being of creatures with whom we share earth. Well, this is a long-winded introduction to the arrival in Northwest Arkansas of eagles that nested up north. They have come south for winter. Folks who spend a fair amount of time watching water birds in Arkansas know that as American Coots begin arriving here in big numbers, eagles come in on about …

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