Date: 1/7/18 12:33 pm
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Our whirlwind tour through western Benton County was unexpected. Before onset of predicted most-of-the-day rain, we planned birding at Craig State Fish Hatchery in Centerton. We made it to the hatchery before rain, but security gates were locked. Even with locked gates, walk-ins are OK, but we decided not to because of coming rain. This proved a godsend. We could see an adult Bald Eagle keeping a sharp eye on things inside.

A huge flock of blackbirds were mostly female Red-wingeds and a small number of Brown-headed Cowbirds. Wilsonís Snipes (20) were working lawns across from the hatchery, perhaps because mud inside was likely frozen. A spring fed pond across the street was full of Mallards (~60), plus Green-winged Teal, (4-5), and many Song and Swamp Sparrows. Locked gates opened unexpected opportunity.

Now with time available, we started a tour south of the hatchery. Immediately had a fine Kriderís Hawk, brilliant white on such a gray day. A spring fed stream that flows south from the hatchery was also full of Mallards (~40) plus a few Northern Shovelers (3). Down Holloway Road, a black black Harlanís Hawk. At the dairy farm, a Harrisís Sparrow with about as black a face as I have ever seen and at least 40 White-crowned Sparrows.

A few miles southeast of the hatchery thereís some pretty good roadside birding attractions in the Highfill area. We hadnít planned on that, either, and it was starting to mist, so what the heck Ö maybe thatís why god gave us windshield wipers Ö

A flock of maybe (?) Horned Larks flew across a big field not far from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. We got great for sure looks at Savannah Sparrows (~18) on a barbed wire fence. Then another adult Bald Eagle. A bunch of cardinals were just ahead in a roadside thicket. They really stand out on a gray winter day. There were also a few sparrows. Then Joan noticed a yellow bird.

This proved to be a Palm Warbler! We could see it well enough, even through windows, to pick out the rufous crown and brilliant yellow undertail. The mainly light-colored belly and light supercilium made us think it was one of the brown western palms. We both got photographs Ė a little gray like the day, but useful.

Light spotty rain was starting, but we decided to make one more pass by the hatchery. Gates still closed, and maybe because of that -- and therefore time well spent elsewhere -- a remarkable winter morning of birding.

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