Date: 1/4/18 1:09 pm
From: CK Franklin <meshoppen...>
Subject: The near delta--Lonoke County

I have commenced my winter field trips into the near delta. While the lakes command attention, I prefer the solitude of the wind across near empty fields, parsing out ditch sparrows, and discovering delicious little habitats tucked in behind the tree lines that frame sprawling farm fields.

England, Arkansas. I ran down to the community fishing pond on the second to see if any Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were foolish enough to brave the freezing temps. Ice caked shores told me wind driven water sprayed up on the banks before the surface froze. No ducks but a plenitude of blackbirds swirled around the open field between the pond and the grain elevators. Many Eurasian Collared-Doves were feeding with them or huddled together for warmth along the various power & telephone lines around the elevators. More Eastern Meadowlarks than usual were inspecting the grass covered banks of the pond while keeping an eye on me and the sky. Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are never far away.

The farmers near England flood some of their grain fields around January 1. Of course they were all ice locked as well, but warming temperatures will draw the ducks out of their hiding places. I asked one of my Master Gardener buddies who is tied into the farming community if the farmers over there are participating in the Mud project or some other project meant to provide temporary habitat for birds getting ready to head back north in the spring. She did not know but said she would find out. If it stays warm, the area around England will be awash in Northern Pintails in the coming weeks.

Scott, Arkansas. I know I set some hearts aflutter with my longspur misadventure two days ago. I went back yesterday to relocate the birds, but they were not in the mood to be observed or photographed. I caught the pair on the ground long enough to recognize they were longspurs. Then they and the Horned Larks were racing off across the fields. The larks eventually came back to their favorite home base near the round and brought some American Pipits with them. The longspurs flew in wide circles back and forth, rattling some as they flew by us but never settling for photos. As the sun began to fade, we made the loop around to Bearskin Lake Road and back out to Hwy 165, crossed the river, and got home about dark.


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