Bill Shepherd, Bob Harden, and I headed to south central Arkansas to bird the Kingsland Prairie Natural Area to look for Henslow's Sparrows. This property is owned by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Bill worked for the ANHC for many years and knew this site was good for HESPs. We found the sign for the Prairie NA at the end of a spur off Prairie Road, a gravel road back in the pine woods. We parked at the gate and walked in. Knee boots are a must. It's wet in places and the grass is tall with some thorny vines. Within 5 minutes of walking, we flushed a Henslow. It teed-up in a small pine sapling and sat for at least 5 minutes in the sunlight, giving us incredibly great looks from less than 25 feet. Views through my scope highlighted the pink legs and bill, the delicate streaking on the breastband and sides, the olive-green nape and face, the dark lateral throat stripes, and rufous wings. Best look I've ever had of a Henslow's. Bob, the photographer of the group, was in heaven. He snapped 300 hundred digital shots of the bird. Understandable because this was a life bird for Bob and it doesn't get any better than that for a first look! We walked a couple of fields for about 2 hours and flushed at least 6 Henslow's that teed-up, plus at least 4 to 5 more that didn't tee-up but were probable HESPs. We kinda of lost count, which is a fun problem to have. What was interesting is that we flushed the Henslow's out of really tall grass. Last weekend Allan Mueller, Michael Linz, and I birded Warren Prairie looking for Henslow's. After almost three hours of walking, we flushed only one Henslow out of fairly short grass. Short grass habitat is more typical for Henslow's at Warren Prairie, which is what I'm used to. The Henslow's at Kingsland seem to like tall grass.
Kingsland was a totally new site for Bob and me and has a lot of promise for a future ASCA field trip. The Kingsland site is located east and north of Fordyce off Hwy. 79 in Cleveland County. It's fairly isolated and not well-marked. For directions, go to the ANHC website at www.naturalheritage.com. Go to the bottom of the page and click on "Natural Areas". Expand the map to find the Kingsland marker, then tap on it to open, then tap again. It provides written directions and Google Maps/GPS info.
After a quick tailgate lunch at the Prairie, we headed to Pine Bluff and the wetlands at Ohio St./Wilbur West Rd. on the south side of Pine Bluff. We found two very responsive Marsh Wrens. Also seen were Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwalls, Shovelers, a few Mallards, lots of Coots, Great Egrets, an adult Bald Eagle, a decent number of Pectoral Sandpipers and Killdeers, plus an incredible 380 Green-winged Teal! We also had a VERY light-morphed female Northern Harrier, a very odd looking bird.
We then called Delos McCauley for directions to the owl nests. Since the Razorback game had ended, he graciously offered to meet us at Wilbur West Rd. It was a good thing he came to help because we were looking at the wrong tree at the wrong bridge for the Barred Owl nest. Delos showed us the right tree and we could glimpse the rufous feathers of the female Barred Owl who was ensconced in the nest cavity. We then headed to south of Sherill on Hwy. 31 for the Great-horned Owl nest. The one GHOW Owlet was dozing in the sun. It's big with lots of down still, but with some adult feathers coming in, especially around the face. We thanked Delos, then headed back to Little Rock. We made a quick stop at the town of Tucker to check two big flocks of blackbirds. They contained a mix of Rusties, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Grackles, and Red-winged Blackbirds. Today was a super day with great birding buddies and a chance to bird a new site!