Audubon Arkansas's BirdLR 2019 got off to a stormy start. Due to the threat of flooding and thunderstorms on May 12 we postponed the Scavenger Hunt and Bird Bash to June 1, while giving the Birdathon teams the flexibility to pick their own date between May 11 and June 1. Seven of eight teams were able to reschedule, with results also being weather as well as date dependent.
Audubon Society of Central Arkansas’s team leader Karen Holliday showed up at Gillam Park on the morning of May 11 in case others wanted to squeeze in birding before the rain. The rain came quickly yet still 7 birders had a wet but exciting morning with a mini-fallout of 11 warbler species, plus a Peregrine Falcon and two Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks near Terry Lock and Dam. Black-necked Stilt and Wilson’s Phalarope at the Port Authority were other good finds among the 73 species tallied. Here’s the full report. Still, Karen decided to reschedule the official team try for June 1 so more birders could participate. Although migrants had long moved on by then, 16 birders tallied 70 species including 3 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, 100 Mississippi Kites in one kettle, and over 25 Least Terns nesting on a gravel lot at the Port because record flooding submerged their sandbars.
The Fabulous FOBAAK (Four Old Birders and a Kid) took advantage of the overnight rains and ASCA’s initial finds to have a fabulous day in the field on May 12. They saw 17 warbler species, 3 sandpiper species, a Willow Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Bobolinks, and a lingering Lesser Scaup and Ring-billed Gull. They tallied a prize-winning 109 species, plus 3 species they couldn’t count because only one person saw it or they saw it after 6 pm.
The following Saturday, May 18, Early Birds & The Worms, Little Rockhoppers, Pulaski Chicks Love Birds, and the Bicycling Birders headed out. The latter traversed the county solely by bicycle, and still managed to find 83 species including 4 that no other team detected. Overall, the late date and clear skies overnight meant migrants were hard to find. The Early Birds relocated the Lesser Scaup and Blue-winged Teal the FOBAAK found, and heard a Sora whinny from a roadside marsh. Pulaski Chicks relocated the whistling-ducks on the east side of the Arkansas River where they also saw an Osprey carrying a fish. Little Rockhoppers were the only ones to score a Yellow Warbler that day. All the teams lost an hour at the end as another strong storm system brought heavy rains.
Team M. Gidonax took advantage of that storm system by birding on May 19. They found two late-migrating species no other team had – Wilson’s and Mourning Warblers; the latter a life bird for both of them. They also had arguably the best bird of the Birdathon, a White-winged Dove on Harper Rd. They tallied the second highest count at 91 species plus 2 species shortly after 6 pm.
All together teams tallied 140 species, 3 more than last year. Of those, 36 were seen by only one team, including Pied-billed Grebe, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Solitary Sandpiper, Broad-winged Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Philadelphia Vireo, Field Sparrow, and Scarlet Tanager.
Teams also raised funds for Audubon Arkansas's bird conservation and environmental education programs by securing donations and pledges per species seen. Collectively we raised $8,080. The Early Birds & The Worms won the prize for the most money raised with $4,736, though the Little Rockhoppers were the most creative at it; Doris and Dottie Boyles dug up excess yard plants to give away in exchange for support.
Audubon Arkansas thanks all 35 birders for devoting their time and talent to the event, and for helping to raise funds and friends. Time to start strategizing for next year!