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Committed to Preserving the Natural World in Northwest Arkansas through Education, Environmental Study and Habitat Protection



Brown-headed Nuthatch

March 27, 2010 (Saturday).

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society has a field trip to the Shores Lake area of the Ozark National Forest on Saturday March 27. It will be lead by Bill Beall, the veteran birder from Fort Smith who has birded this area for years, including big stands of native shortleaf pine. I went out there to look around today. It is one of the real gems in our part of the state.

I got to Shores Lake, not on I-540, but down old 71, then east on state 348 just south of Mountainburg. You get to the end of 348, then the highway assumes several local names; fear not! Just keep heading east. Old 71 and 348 provide a leisurely way to see the magnificent Boston Mountains. The 16 miles from old 71 to Fern & Shores Lake wind and turn, climb and descend, both in elevation and in time. It looks pretty modern near Mountainburg, but further east & deeper into the old hills is the feel & look of an older Arkansas : homes with big porches & yards full of old time varieties of simple flowering daffodils. The previous generations also set out yuccas and these grace many of the older yards. A big yard was full of migrating robins. A farm pond at Fern was all about spring peepers and Red-winged Blackbirds.

The huge shortleaf pine stands along 215 south of Fern hosted a flock of 9 Wild Turkeys, and many flocks of American Goldfinches. I’m sure I saw 200. There were goldfinches up in the small cones & goldfinches seeking tiny seeds in ripe sweetgum balls. A Sharp-shinned Hawk flew across the highway carrying prey about half the hawk’s size. Pine Warblers are in full song. Eastern Towhees were “che-winking” in the thickets around timber harvest areas. Purple Finches were probing the newly blossomed tree flowers in the bottoms at Shores Lake. And as I watched them, a Barred Owl called from the ridge. Witch hazel was still in bloom along the creek at Shores Lake and later, also at Winslow along old 71.

Today it was just a little too early for Black-and-white Warblers & Louisiana Waterthrushes. Of course that didn’t keep me from trying. I’ll bet they’ll be there on the 27th.

Folks in the Fort Smith area will probably take I-40 to Mulberry, then north on 215 to Shores Lake. This is a simple and straight forward path. Folks from Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers could take I-540 to I-40, but I found the travel on old 71, then 348 & the various roads it becomes (Old Locke, etc) to be a pleasurable beginning of a fun birding expedition. It is almost all paved (just a few miles in the middle are still gravel). I googled-up a map showing this route and I can email this to anyone who wants to go that way, or just type Shores Lake, Ozark National Forest into Google Earth.

We are going to meet up at the picnic area entrance on the west side of the lake. Just as you get to Shores Lake, notice the sign that indicates the left fork for “Shores Lake -1, Camping, White Rock 7.” Meeting time is 9 AM.

 For more information, contact me at 479-521-1858.


The Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society is a registered non-profit organization serving the four-county region of northwest Arkansas -- Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties.