14 de febrero de 2019

2018 Little Rock Birdathon Historical Recap--Team M Gidonax

I didn't write up much of a report after Little Rock's inaugural Birdathon event, much to my chagrin. So, looking forward to 2019's event, I am writing a much overdue report from 5/12/18. My team, Team M Gidonax, had originally set a fundraising goal of $250 and a species goal of 90. Through a slough of generous donations, we achieved our goal well before the Birdathon event. Following is the report of our event, supported by observations submitted through iNaturalist. WARNING: Not all observations were of birds (we tried a very holistic approach, which included surveying snake populations).

On May 12, 2018, Matt Gideon and I set out to bird the confines of Pulaski County (PuCo), starting just before dawn and ending a little before 5pm, so we could participate in the BirdBash held at the end of our allotted time. We started out in south PuCo before dawn to listen for owls and nightjars. This morning excursion yielded 0 owls, but a handful of Chuck-will's-widows. We also caught the beginning of the dawn chorus. This chorus featured several Northern Cardinals, an Indigo Bunting, and one of my favorites, Wood Thrush. We birded this route (Atwood Rd. to Chicot Rd.) on our way to our first intended stop, Pinnacle Mountain State Park.


We only birded Pinnacle's arboretum trail, as this had been an awesome migratory warbler spot in the past. We only had a handful of warblers, all of which were resident species. We did find our first Empidonax sp. of flycatcher, the Acadian Flycatcher. This was an especially good find, though expected at locale, because this genus of flycatcher is how we came to our team mash-up name: M Gidonax. We picked up a couple of vireos and woodpeckers, then moved to our next spot just down the road.
Here's the list from County Farm Rd, en route to Two Rivers: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45647289

Two Rivers Park, still in western PuCo, is one of my favorite year round birding spots. However, it is a favorite spot for a lot of people with varying interests. Fortunately, we visited on a day without hordes of cyclists or runners and were able to stop in the middle of the trail to view interesting species, not just birds. We watched a few dragonflies go by as we headed out on the equestrian trail. We immediately found two more Empidonax flycatchers: Willow and Least. We had help with the Willow, as we only originally glimpsed it. But, another group came by shortly after us and used some playback to lure it in and found it to be Willow and not the very similar Alder Flycatcher. We journeyed to an observation that overlooked a decent reed-bed and used playback to try and observe Soras. No luck there, but we did come across two Cottonmouths at the base of the tower. At this locale we were able to pick up several field birds and marsh birds, including but not limited to, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, and Common Yellowthroat.

Staying in west PuCo, we decided to hit the North Shore Dr. and Cook's Landing duo. Historically, North Shore Dr has had seasonal wetlands that has held shorebirds. However, we only found a small puddle that held a lone Mississippi Mud Turtle boot-scootin' it to the next mudhole (another herp for our list). There were quite a few field birds at this first locale, which was a consolation for there being very little water. We found scores of Dickcissels, calling out. We studied a brush pile that had a group of inquisitive House Finches that were later joined by other field birds. Shortly before leaving, we stopped and listened to the song of a Lark Sparrow, which we finally located in the top of a sapling oak. Although we didn't spend much time at Cook's Landing, this was one of our more fruitful excursions. We mostly birded the dam area, which held several water birds: Forster's Tern, Black Tern, Spotted Sandpiper, Mallards, Lesser Scaup, and a few others. We met up with a couple other teams and shared some stories and some sightings. Though this event was competitive, it was also quite collaborative, with groups helping out other groups with interesting finds.

Before getting lunch, we journeyed south to Boyle Park, off of University. Boyle Park is probably my favorite location for dragons/damsels, but is also a really good spot for migrating passerines. Today was no exception for either. We found our highest amount of migrating warblers (2: Chestnut-sided and Magnolia) as well as a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Gray-cheeked Thrush. This GC Trush was our team's unique bird, as we were the only ones to observe it. Also, I had not seen this bird in several years and it was a lifer for Matt. So, I am nominating this bird as our Bird of the Day. This was our best locale, yielding 40 species of birds and several different species of herps, insects, and wildflowers.


Next, we hit Lorance Creek Natural Area in southeast PuCo. This is one of my favorite birding patches in PuCo year round and it didn't disappoint. The habitat is quite similar to that of the Arboretum Trail that we had already visited, but we were able to nab some new species: Prothonotary Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. This braided stream system also had some pretty neat herps, as well.


Time was starting to become a concern, but we still had some unfinished business in southeast PuCo. We birded Harper Rd, leading up to David D. Terry Park/Lock & Dam. This route yielded more field birds and finally offered up some decent shorebird numbers (Pectoral Sandpipers being unique). We briefly stopped at the dam and picked up our target species, Painted Bunting, and not much else. Our last spot was on our way to the BirdBash event, so we made a drive-by on Fourche Dam Pike to pick up a Western Kingbird, of which we found four.


At the BirdBash event, we met up with the other teams and shared stories, ate wonderful food, tallied birds, and counted donations. Overall, we came in 3rd in species count, with 97. This event was not only a blast to participate in, but was also a great way to get the community involved in local bird conservation and raise funds for these efforts.

Looking ahead, we already have our team page up for this year's Birdathon (https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/WLJfmAFwAUm3p06tSfL8hw2), which will take place on 5/11/19. Check out our team page and the pages of our competitors. Also, we appreciate any support, whether it be donations or just following our efforts and cheering us on. You can follow us here, on iNaturalist (me: @moondevg ; and Matt: @mattgideon) or on eBird.

Publicado el febrero 14, 2019 04:37 TARDE por moondevg moondevg | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

15 de enero de 2019

Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge CBC 1/5/19

The winter of 2018-19 saw the initiation of the Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge's Christmas Bird Count. I had birded this southwest AR refuge with a friend during the summer of '17 and we had joked about the idea of starting up a CBC circle for this area. However, by December of '18, we had the paperwork submitted and were well on our way to circle status. We picked the very last day of the count season (1/5/19) for our count, hoping to pick up any volunteers looking for one more count before the season ended. Unfortunately, all of our other counters had to cancel for the count, leaving just the two of us to survey the entire 15-mile diameter circle.

As my earlier post stated, I was trying to photograph a larger percentage of birds observed during my outings. I failed at this during the CBC season up to this point. This count wasn't much better in the way of photographic documentation, but I was able to manage a few pics of birds and other wildlife.

We started out before dawn, trying to find some owls. We did manage 3 Barred Owls, but had no recordings. Most of the refuge was under water, due to recent rains. Fortunately, this didn't seem to phase the birds at all. We found almost all of the woodland passerines that we were hoping for in the first couple of hours. Most of the refuge surveyed was mixed pine-hardwood forest. While cruising around different tracks of forests and bits of the Little River, we picked up large amounts of American Robins and a surprising total of 4 Blue-headed Vireos. The following were photographed in and around the forest and adjacent creeks/sloughs:

Hooded Merganser https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479765
Pileated Woodpecker https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479766
Double-crested Cormorant https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479767
Bald Eagle https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479768

While stopped at an oxbow called Red Lake, we found one of the more surprising finds of the day, a Variegated Meadowhawk (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479769). I had mentioned earlier in the day, when we saw that the temps would get into the upper-60s, that I would like to see an ode for the day. I said this in jest and was completely astonished when my friend exclaimed, "Dragon!" We were very happy to find this ode and were treated to at least 3 more during the day.

In the afternoon we birded more fields than anything else. We focused on pastures to try and add to our woodland species dominated list. We both had scouted out the area in November and had found several different open country birds. Unfortunately, we missed many of these on the actual count day. There were some consolations, though, as we found a rare winter resident Lark Sparrow and an uncommon winter resident Merlin in this region. Here are some of our other finds:

Northern Mockingbird https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479771
Dark-eyed Junco https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479770
Red-shouldered Hawk https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19479772

We ended the day with a decent count of 71 species, several of which were unexpected. However, there were many horrible misses on the count, as well (Mourning Dove, Killdeer, American Kestrel, and others). Our last observation for the counts was a series of flyovers by at least 100 Wood Ducks at dusk.

Publicado el enero 15, 2019 11:00 TARDE por moondevg moondevg | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de diciembre de 2018

iNat Influencing My Birding: Lake Saracen, Jefferson Co., AR 12/3/18

Since joining iNaturalist, back in fall of 2017, I have made better efforts to document everything. I am first and foremost a birder. However, in the past few years I have branched out to many other taxa. With most of the observations of these "other" taxa, I needed/need photos for an ID. With birds, I usually just go out and look/listen, leaving my camera behind more often than not. I am comfortable enough with my ID skills of local birds that I didn't often get documentation. I would only try photographing/recording individuals if they were rare or if they provided a really good look/listen. Now, I take my camera every time I go out. If I leave something behind, it's my binoculars and not my camera.

Like most birders, I use eBird predominantly for my bird records. When eBird made it easier to add media to their checklists, I began taking more photos, but still mainly used the camera for rarity documentation. However, I started adding photos of common birds that I managed to photograph well on an outing. When I first joined iNat, I figured that I would use it for all of my non-bird sightings. And, at first, that was exactly what I did. I slowly appreciated what iNat provided for me: a holistic way to document my outings. With iNat, I could catalog any biotic feature of my outing that I could get a photo of in the eco-system that I had visited. When I go out, I may photograph what is in bloom and what insects are flying, in addition to the birds that I may have originally been chasing. I can submit what I know at species level and potentially learn something new by submitting the unknowns. My photo count from outings went from mid-50s to a couple hundred when I adopted this technique. Now that it is essentially winter, birds are what I observe almost exclusively. So, my plan is to spend this winter building up my bird observations on iNat through my different outings, Christmas Bird Counts, and hours of feeder-watching (see the following observation for my newest yard bird) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/18605426

I implemented my new iNat-birding technique yesterday (12/3) while visiting one of my favorite winter birding patches, Lake Saracen (formerly Lake Pine Bluff) in Pine Bluff, AR. I've formed iNat places for many of my patches, but had neglected to do so for this one. So, I set out to begin populating my future iNat patch-place with birds from my first "winter" outing of the 2018-19 season. Kind of a side goal with this visit was to see what percentage of birds I could take identifiable photos of, using very limited playback. In the end, I observed 40 species and took 22 photos of birds that could be, and have been, identified by the iNat community. I used playback only for rails that were either not present or unwilling to respond. I had photos of two species that were, in my opinion, unidentifiable and I did not post them (one of a Fish Crow that was ID-ed by voice and another of a Horned Grebe that I could see well but did not photograph well enough). Instead of giving a report of each bird that I photographed and each bird that I only observed, I'm going to group my sightings by region or habitat.

I started the trek on the southeast corner of the lake, where the walking trail begins. This part of the lake is very shallow, with a heavily vegetated island. The adjacent land was a fragment of semi-wet bottomland hardwood. Here's what I saw in this section

The second half of the portion of trail that I walked featured a deeper part of the lake, along with a reed bed near the shore. The adjacent land ranged from a swampy area to baseball fields.

Before leaving, I checked the around the various fishing piers and the enormous landing and found a Great Egret and a few Ruddy Ducks

I hope to utilize this strategy more and more. Here is a link to the eBird checklist that I submitted for this outing.

Publicado el diciembre 4, 2018 10:36 TARDE por moondevg moondevg | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario