Date: 2/6/18 3:16 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Some of the newly acquired fields being added to Frog Bayou Wildlife Management Area in the Arkansas River Valley a few miles southeast of Alma have excellent habitat for many birds, including Short-eared Owls. Some of these densely-vegetated fields are along Sharp Chapel Road. Bill and Toka Beall were out there last week – many Northern Harriers by day, changing to Short-eared Owls at dusk. Joan Reynolds and I repeated their trip last night, with similar results.

We first did some general birding, with great views of Savannah Sparrows and many smaller birds in a harvested field, including Lapland Longspurs. From 5 to 6 PM, the fields along Sharp Chapel transitioned from at least 8 harriers to at least 4-6 Short-eared Owls. Our first owl flushed from close to the road where we parked at 5:10. As late as 5:45, there were still some harriers flying. We heard some owl barking and watched as a couple of harriers harassed an owl that had caught something. Mallards were coming in during the whole time, dropping down into ponds of Frog’s Unit 7 adjacent the fields. Owls were flying all around us, offering great views.

The expansion of Frog Bayou WMA is good news for those of us who value public lands. Hunters in western Arkansas have excellent new opportunities. The same public land helps protect ecological diversity. According to Birds of North America, “In recent decades, Short-eared Owls have declined in many areas of North America, especially the northeastern United States; habitat loss owing to human activities appears to be the major cause…”

Red Hill Road coming out from Alma is paved. Sharp Chapel is graded and in fairly good condition especially since it hasn’t rained recently. The place where we parked was about 1.15 miles south of the intersection of Red Hill and Sharp Chapel. We had good views of both the harvested field (where an owl perched for a while in the open) and the overgrown fields with most of the action. There’s not much traffic on Sharp Chapel, but there is some, so we parked where it would be easy for a vehicle to get around us.

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