Date: 12/28/17 5:15 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Starting back in the 1980s, Mike Mlodinow and I have been making mid-winter rounds across former Beaty Prairie in vicinity of Maysville in western Benton County. The route includes old Wet Prairie northeast of Maysville and huge open fields in Barely, Oklahoma, just west of State Line Road. We also go by and check the feeders at Carol Loux’s. Her folks were so welcoming to all of us decades ago, when we were first looking for Bald Eagles.

In Maurice Loux’s memory, we found plenty of eagles December 25, though nothing like the 110 he once lured into a field with a small mountain of dead chickens, several weeks worth from a nearby poultry barn, saved just for that purpose in anticipation of a eagle field trip sponsored by Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society.

For Mike and I, best eagle sighting was 4 attending a dead cow out in a field. Atop the highest cow place: an adult. On lower perches on the cow, a 3rd year and this year’s juv. On the ground nearby, another juv. No, I don’t think the eagles, big as they are, wrestled the cow down and killed it. My speculation: it died in the field and it is just too damn cold to worry with it. It was eagle school with adult as headmistress. From the road it was obvious her students had been performing their exercises.

Mike was especially interested in checking out blackbirds. Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds, a few Rusty Blackbirds in one place, one Common Grackle all day, and a world of European Starlings. No Brewer’s.

Two Bald Eagles were perched in a big tree dominating an enormous open field. Just beyond, a speck that proved a Merlin. We saw quite a few standard Red-tailed Hawks, including one “black warrior” and one we thought was a regular Eastern Red-tailed Hawk until we noticed the dark throat and the long wings: Western Red-tailed Hawk (B.J. calurus, light morph).

We did pretty well on Harris’s Sparrows, including a flock of about 8 among many more White-crowned Sparrows. This was along Wet Prairie Road, adjacent a big harvested bean field that has sometimes been a good place to find Lapland Longspurs. No laps today, but we did hear a Western Meadowlark.

In something 35 years of driving up here, I can’t say I have ever figured-out the “best” way to bird Maysville. Interesting roads and habitats abound. In mid-winter, there’s never enough daylight to cover them with anything approaching thorough.

We stop the car to watch White-crowned Sparrows drifting out in the open. There are Savannah Sparrows among them. Overhead, white phantoms that prove to be Ring-billed Gulls (7).

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