In May of 2016, Dottie and Doris Boyles decided to participate in the 50th Anniversary of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program to visit all 26 historic stamping stations scattered around the state and get their "passport" stamped with each sites's unique stamp. All sites are on the National Register of Historic Places in Arkansas. Smart ladies that they are, they realized they could combine traveling to the stamping stations, add to their goal of visiting all 52 Arkansas state parks, and squeeze in birding along the way. Last July, following the ASCA field trip to Bois D'Arc WMA south of Hope, they convinced me to sign up for the program when we visited the stamping station at the Bill Clinton Birthplace Historic Site. I've been tagging along ever since on their grand adventure. Due to my work schedule, I'm several stamping stations behind the ladies.
This weekend was Dottie and Doris' big push to visit their last few stations with a big loop through Northwest Arkansas. We left Maumelle Saturday morning and headed to St. Joe to visit their historic train station and get our passport stamped. While there, we saw only a few Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Phoebe, but we enjoyed learning about the history of the train line and station. Next stop was the stamping station at the Carnegie Library in Eureka Springs. We didn't realized Saturday was their annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, which explained the huge crush of people. No birds were noticed because we were distracted by the colorfully dressed all-in-green, feather-wrapped, sequined, and tight-skirted participants--and that was just the men! We got out of town just ahead of the start of the parade!
Next stop was Hobb's State Park. Best bird at the feeders was a stunning male YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, and for we central Arkansas birders, we were excited to see a pair of PURPLE FINCHES. Last stop of the day was the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. We had Turkey Vultures coming into roost on the chimney tower and in the trees. At the battlefield overlook, the field was full of about FOUR HUNDRED Cowbirds, plus a smattering of Meadowlarks. In a small partially drained pond were a dozen Wilson's Snipe, four Pectoral Sandpipers, and one Least Sandpiper. We then called it a day and headed to our hotel in Fayetteville.
Sunday morning, our first stop was Devil's Den State Park. Not much bird action. Lots of Turkey Vultures riding the thermals. Fish Crows, White-breasted Nuthatches, and YS Flickers were also seen. Next stop was Lake Fort Smith State Park. The history of the building of the dam and the flooding of the lake included the loss of important farm land that was part of Frog Bayou, which included strawberry farms. Best bird on the lake was a male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER in full breeding plumage. On to the Drennen-Scott House stamping station in Van Buren. What an informative history of the port and barge traffic and again a mention of Frog Bayou! Who knew that Frog was a such big deal back then?! We saw our FOY BROAD-WINGED HAWK.
FINAL stamping station was the Ozark Area Train Depot Museum on the Arkansas River at Ozark, which at the time in the 1920's was a vital transfer port of goods for the locals and for the river traffic. We spotted a few Ring-billed Gulls and DC Cormorants. Congratulations to Dottie and Doris who at this stop had completed visiting all 26 stamping stations in less than two years!
Our final destination Sunday was Mt. Nebo, which Doris had never visited. We left Ozark going to Paris, then got on Hwy. 22 heading toward Dardanelle and Mt. Nebo. We couldn't pass by Delaware Point without stopping to check the lake. At Delaware we found two OSPREY sitting on a NEST on a platform on one of the big channel markers! Near the same channel marker, we had a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. We also had Scaup, Pelicans, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Coots, and Horned Grebes, plus an adult Bald Eagle.
We then headed up to the top of Mt. Nebo. Great views from all directions. At 1,800 feet, we were higher than the soaring Turkey Vultures! Very little bird activity so late in the day, so we headed back down the mountain and home. Great weather this weekend for a awesome adventure of historical touring and birding! Birding can be incorporated into any travel wherever you are. What a great hobby!
(Back home in Maumelle)