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I know all you folks keeping state lists will want to call in sick today when you read here
about the golden-fronted hummingbirds at Lake Atalanta in Rogers. The 25 or so folks
who showed up for Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip September 12 already
got 'em for
their life lists. Of course, we are speaking of Archilochus colubris, Ruby-throated
Hummingbird, all golden on the long bill and face from deep probing into the
reddish-orangish, quite elegant, broadly-lipped and deftly curled tubes of Impatiens
capensis or jewel-weed to those of us in the birding hoi polloi. The jewel-weed is much in
bloom along the shady run of Frisco Spring and well-attended by hummers.

While birds in
general were much in evidence, warbler species were relatively sparse:
Wilson’s Warbler,
Common Yellowthroat, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula,
Orange-crowned Warbler, and
Black-and-white Warbler. Vireos included Red-eyed,
Warbling, White-eyed (still singing),
and Blue-headed.

American Goldfinches flew over us all day. We encountered a couple
of them in a patch
of Polymnia canadensis, leaf-cup that grows against rock cliffs. They
seemed to be very
busy probing the flowers and not much concerned about our interest.

We heard a few soft coo-coo-coos and saw a couple of Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Some trees

were all decked out in the tents of fall webworms. One of our best views of the cuckoos
was a close up of a cuckoo with a yellowish fuzzy-bristly late instar larva fresh-plucked
from the EZ-Mart of the forest: AKA, tents of fall webworms.

We had a couple of decent
views of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, not so rose-breasted in
the fall. One spent a long
time on the long dangling hop-like seed sacs of Ostrya virginiana,
the hop hornbeam tree.
I guess it was extracting nutlets there – it was just too long in one
place, with a fascinated
crowd of birders below – for this to be about anything else.

We were surprised by a
Wood Thrush relatively late in the season for us. We never saw
the bird, but the
distinctive chattering call notes were given for quite a while from deep in
the hollow.

Michelle Viney and family came out for the walk. Michelle is Conservation Program
Manager for Audubon Arkansas, part of the National Audubon Society. I don’t bring this
up because Michelle is a stranger to local birding, BUT because she and her husband
Lee Chalmers brought their brand-spanking new daughter, Callie Chalmers (age 2 months)
too, by far the youngest in our group. And she got plenty close to the gorgeous birds
because ole dad had her well-protected in a snuggy that allowed him one free hand for
binoculars. I have the pictures to prove this!

There was a dazzling male Baltimore Oriole
perched atop a tall tree in bright sunlight.
There were two Barred Owls that called back to
us after play-back. The last bird of the day
was a Cooper’s Hawk that barreled across the
trail just before we reached the cars.
I almost forgot the wonderful upside antics of flickers
harvesting possum grapes in dense
vines high in the trees.

Finally, I would be remiss if I
failed to mention our favorite break, in the sacred grove of
Asimina triloba, the venerable
“Arkansas banana,” AKA, paw paws. The grove occupies a
shady spot at the head of
Frisco Spring. When I first arrived, I saw one of the local
non-birding cognoscenti come
out of the grove with 3 paw paws (“The last ones I’ll bet,” I
said to myself), but was then
relieved when he said there were more, “still too green.”
We’d worked up a real lather
after our prolonged studies of the golden-fronted hummers
and were ready for
refreshment. With many sets of eyes, we spotted more paw paws.
With a few practiced
tree shakes, we had ripe paw paws.

And yes, there are still more there. What an amazing
year for paw paws and wild fruit in
general. --Joe Neal







Event Invitation

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009 at 1:00 pm

If you are looking around your calendar and see a blank spot on Saturday, at 1 PM, and you are around Fayetteville, you would be most welcome to join a few (probably VERY few) folks in helping to clear a path/trail in the oak barren habitat at

Wilson Springs

. It's been a great birding place in past years BUT it is currently an unworkable mess. Joe Woolbright and a contractor are going to mow out walking trails Saturday morning. On Saturday starting 1 PM, Joe and his son Alex are going to fire up their saws and start reducing the ice storm damage in the woodland habitat (with big prairie mounds, the Arkansas Darter spring run, etc). What's needed is help to move the brush once it's cut up by Joe & Alex. It will be hard, hot, sweaty, and can you imagine why you actually agreed to help? BUT, we need the help. You need boots and leather gloves. Also, if you want more info about this opportunity, call Joe at 479-427-4277 or me 479-521-1858, or, BEST, just meet us out there. Any help, any duration, very welcome.

-- JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Event Results

Nine volunteers armed with chainsaws, lopers, leather gloves, and a willingness to sweat and bleed PLUS a hardy tractor and brush hog from Siloam Springs PLUS Joe Woolbright and his Ozark Ecological Restoration Inc plus determination, OPENED some fine birding (and multiple use) trails through the now sadly overgrown former seasonally wet prairie fields at Wilson Springs in Fayetteville.

We also cleared a birdable trail through the ice storm damaged wooded bottomlands alongside Wilson Spring with its Arkansas Darters.

As a result of this, visitors can get around the whole place, top to bottom, see the spring, and fully bird the typically birdy seasonal wetlands. The entire place still needs additional removal of invasive callorie pears (and many other invasives that have gained ground because of 5+ years of no management except for last winters callorie pear removal) and acomplete, hot, prescribed burn to favor the many native Tallgrass Prairie plants that are being smoothered.

BUT, for the first time in several years, there are real trails that provide extensive access and hopefully much more is to come. One volunteer said it would be easy to generate a google type trails map by simply walking around the whole place, which would be a big help to those unfamiliar with the site.

Wilson Springs was identified as a priority grassland landscape in our Fayetteville green infrastructure project. We are hoping that money from a recently awarded state wildlife grant to Audubon Arkansas that includes Wilson Springs will result in positive on-the-ground habitat quality gains in the near term.

-- JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas