Date: 10/9/18 1:18 pm
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: Woolsey before soaking
UA-Fayetteville graduate students Vivek Govind Kumar and Alyssa DeRubeis were at Woolsey Wet Prairie Wildlife Sanctuary in Fayetteville October 7 and found a bunch of interesting birds, especially high numbers of Sedge and Marsh Wrens, both migrating through northwest Arkansas. I was out there this morning with David Oakley and soon joined by another graduate student, Mitchell Pruitt, photographing wrens.

It was still a little dark when David and I arrived, with our first bird being a Palm Warbler. Then the sky was full with a bunch of male Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, having what seemed sword fights with their long tails. Then a flock of Eastern Bluebirds, a few Northern Flickers (yellow-shafted) heading south, and Common Yellowthroats in the lower branches of Buttonbushes.

Woolsey stands out as one of the better spots to find these migratory wrens and other plant and animal species of seasonal prairie wetlands, but it is almost deceptive on my part to say so. One of Fayetteville’s best kept secrets is that despite its well-earned reputation as environmentally friendly, since the 1980s the city has lost thousands of acres of habitat just like Woolsey, along with the native plants and birds. From thousands of acres, we are now down to a few hundred, mainly Wilson Springs Preserve and the 40 or so acres at Woolsey Wet Prairie Wildlife Sanctuary, mainly because of its status as a wetland mitigation site.

Woolsey is a such great place to enjoy birds, plants, butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, frogs, snakes, etc. Ten minutes from campus, Alyssa is just one of now quite a few UA-Fayetteville graduate students who have included Woolsey as a study site. UA-Fayetteville’s Willson Lab has a bunch of interesting projects there involving snakes, frogs, salamanders, etc. A lot of stuff no one in Fayetteville had even ever paid attention until folks from the lab, led by Dr J.D. Willson, started taking a close look.

One of my fondest wishes is that Fayetteville would wake up to its now rapidly disappearing heritage of seasonal wetlands and the native plants and birds associated with them. I am not optimistic about this, but I must say that when you see bright, energetic people like Vikek and Alyssa appreciating such habitat, then two more like Mitchell and David (and later, we ran into Barry Bennett), I feel a little spark of hope.

Fayetteville could still wake up and formally protect what’s left before it is too late. It is not simply a matter of protecting land. It is about taking the time to study and appreciate a rich natural heritage. Taking time to respect the many wild creatures that must have this habitat for survival.Realizing how much this adds to Fayetteville.

I would have more birds to list here, but it started raining. We had to make a run for the cars. Young Mitchell in the lead, of course, but David and I made it too, before soaking.

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