Date: 10/1/18 5:48 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: Migration on the agenda
Bird migration was on the agenda during Bison, Birds, Botany, and Butterflies September 26-29, in the Osage Hills region of northeastern Oklahoma, and especially The Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. I was over there with a few others of necessity escaping the huge Harley motorcycle rally in northwest Arkansas. We picked up quite a few migrants.

And speaking of migration: I hope many will take advantage of the golden opportunity at Texarkana this coming weekend for the fall gathering of Arkansas Audubon Society. The field trip agenda looks spectacular! My prediction: many Life Birds tallied, many hard-to-observe species found.

During our Tallgrass trip, some migrants like Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow, Nashville Warbler, and Lincoln’s Sparrow were FOS. Others were decked out in fall browns -- Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings. Flocks of Brown-headed Cowbirds – original name, Buffalo Bird – included patchy young of the year. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Eastern Bluebirds were gathered in impressive and vocal flocks, suddenly dominant reality of a given few trees or bushes.

Red-headed Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers shot overhead in 1 and 3s. We could still find a few local nesting Neotropical songbirds like Summer Tanagers, but the season of migration is on them, too. Northern Harriers were numerous in their low graceful sweeps over tall grasses. But nothing is so impressive as treetop flocks of southbound Blue Jays. Yes, our familiar yard bird the Blue Jay taken up life in the flock.

Over three days we noticed at least 13 flocks overhead and headed south – no doubt missed many more -- number of individual jays in each up to 82 individuals (average 36). With just a modest boost of north wind, jays depart resting places in the blackjacks and launch forth to freedom of a seemingly endless prairie sky.

A Greater Prairie-Chicken suddenly flushed and made a long low flight across the prairie. Not a migrant of course. Instead, powerful reminder of the gift that is a native, expansive, protected, grassland.

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