Date: 6/26/18 5:38 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: Baker Prairie Natural Area at Harrison
Before I jump directly into the birds yesterday at Baker Prairie Natural Area in Harrison, here’s a little poem from by Emily Dickinson:

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.”

In all respect, I would add that to make a northwest Arkansas prairie, you also need Dickcissels. Yesterday, at Baker, Dickcissels had plenty of tall perches. Compass Plants were up and covered with brilliant yellow flowers, providing something in the way of an ideal perch a few feet above and therefore with a commanding view of the surrounding grasslands. Tall wands with Dickcissels whipped back and forth in the wind.

We walked both mowed trails through Baker. Between walks, enjoyed the shade in the attractive shelter built by Friends of Baker Prairie.

First birds: Scissor-tailed Flycatchers along the powerlines. Then, Mourning Doves (8) that flushed out of the shelter when we walked up. We also saw Eastern Meadowlarks (2), an American Kestrel (1), heard Common Yellowthroats (2), Indigo Bunting (1), Blue Grosbeak (1), Red-winged Blackbirds (6), Yellow-breasted Chat (2), Northern Cardinal (1), and Killdeer (2).

Even though Compass Plants are fairly common across the region of Tallgrass Prairies, we have lost most of our prairies in Arkansas, and seeing Compass Plants in an unmowed (or these days, un-herbicided) roadside ditch is not the same as native, natural – I’d almost say supra-natural Compass Plant skyscrapers – starting with their huge, ornately-sculpted basal leaves -- rising above a prairie landscape. They were spreading grace all over Baker Prairie NA.

We were looking out over the green mass of native grasses and there is this startling presence, masses of red trumpets – long green tubes and five deliriously fire engine red petals. My oh my. One of yesterday’s best finds: cardinal red, flowering, Royal Catchfly (Silene regia). I saw one being visited by an equally brilliantly green tiny green bee, crawling right down into the fire of pollen.

One indicator of a prairie’s quality is presence of a very, very strange “flower” called Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium. The Master was flowering in the many thousands, covering the entire landscape. Between, thousands of flowering Winecups – rich and colorful as the name suggests – and a lot of fun too -- an entire prairie-scape of them and a great wonder to walk through it all.

I’m pretty sure I missed a few things because I was also hoping for Willow Flycatcher and Bell’s Vireo. I used playback in three likely spots for the little flycatchers, but no luck. This was a disappointment, but on the other hand, the prairie flora was so absolutely eye-popping that I was very, very happy I’d made the long drive from Fayetteville on this particular day.

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