Audubon Arkansas's 2020 BirdLR Birdathon adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic conditions. Instead of coming together in central Arkansas on May 9, members of each of the nine teams birded separately as individuals/households, or spaced apart in caravans in their home areas or wherever they felt safe and comfortable.
Eager to take advantage of spring migration and to see as many species as possible, our Birdathon birders ranged across central Arkansas; in the southwest, southeast, and northeast corners; and even in Iowa!
Audubon Society of Central Arkansas’s team leader Karen Holliday led a caravan of socially distanced chapter members, while other members birded elsewhere, including Western Hills Park, Ranch North Woods Preserve, Bald Knob NWR, and their backyards. The highlight for Karen’s caravan was the spectacular sight of 100 Mississippi Kites soaring and diving over Frazier Pike. ASCA’s species total was 121.
Patty McLean and Michael Linz, of the Faulkner County Road Runners, began and ended with Chuck-will’s-widows, and were treated to two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons that flew into Bell Slough’s wetland at sunset. Another highlight was a Blackburnian Warbler in their yard. Randy Robinson and Steve Warmack had saw a stakeout Greater Roadrunner; fittingly, they were the only team to see one. Their team’s total was 150.
Devin Moon of team M. Gidonax took his whole family birding around Columbia Co. A highlight was 7 warbler species in their yard at Logoly State Park. His kids wanted to see eagles, and indeed they watched two catch fish. A Swainson’s Warbler near Stamps was a nice surprise; the only one for the Birdathon. Meanwhile, Matt Gideon birded Pond Creek NWR in Sevier Co. where he saw a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Altogether they tallied 96 species.
We Caracarabout Birds made the bold decision to go to Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro. They left Little Rock at 4 AM. It paid off because they cleaned up on warblers – 19 species! On the way back they stopped at Bald Knob NWR for shorebirds and waterfowl. That afternoon they had a Peregrine Falcon high overhead. They tallied 113 species.
The Bird People of Hot Springs Village kept to the Village and its environs. At a private ranch Carolyn Minson picked up open country birds including Eastern Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. They were the only team to see Common Loon and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Their 86 species is higher than any individual team’s tally on the HSV Christmas Bird Count, which surprised and pleased them.
The Cabot Middle School South No Egrets was comprised of 5th and 6th graders, their teachers, parents, and grandparents. Team leader and bird club sponsor Stephanie Lisk saw warblers around a pond by her house. One student observed just how much American Robins fight. Another student enjoyed getting outside and watching goslings with his family. A teacher was inspired to work on learning to identify birds by sound. Collectively they tallied 45 species.
Cindy Franklin and Donna Haynes, the Pulaski Chicks Love Birds, birded together-apart. They saw Snowy Egrets at the Port Authority. At Galloway, in addition to the Great-tailed Grackles they found Western Kingbirds, a new location for this species. They discovered the grackles have also spread further east along I-40. A flock of 300+ Bobolinks in Lonoke Co. was another highlight. They tallied 87 species.
Ragan Sutterfield of The Thrashers, started his day at Bell Slough for warblers. He and Bill Shepherd found a Greater Scaup at Cook’s Landing, the only one for the day. That afternoon he took his daughters birding at the Port Authority where they saw shorebirds and a shrike harassing a Red-tailed Hawk. Meanwhile, in eastern AR, Gabrielle Hargrove didn’t have as much luck with warblers at White River NWR as she hoped, but she did pick up a Cape May! She also had both gallinules at Arkansas Post. The Thrashers tallied 124 species.
As for the Early Birds and the Worms, Samantha and I left the house at 3 AM and ended after 11 PM. We were the only ones to relocate the Red-breasted Mergansers at Beaverfork. Our only Red-headed Woodpecker was at our feeder when we stopped for lunch. A male Scarlet Tanager at Pine Bluff Airport was unexpected. We added 5 species at sunset in Gillam Park including Wood Duck, Barred Owl, and Common Nighthawk. Jeremy Chamberlain and Heather Laferte birded southwest AR. Their highlights were Cackling Goose, Worm-eating Warbler, and Inca Doves. Seth Chamberlain lives in Iowa. He added species that are hard to find in AR in May such as Northern Harrier, Common Merganser, and Vesper Sparrow. We had 169 species. Without Seth’s unique species the tally is 154.
All together teams tallied 204 species. Of those, 38 were seen by only one team, including Pied-billed Grebe, Inca Dove, White-faced Ibis, Alder Flycatcher, Swamp Sparrow, and Canada Warbler. And yes, this does include a couple of species Seth saw in Iowa that can’t be found in Arkansas – Black-capped Chickadee and Ring-necked Pheasant.
Audubon Arkansas thanks all 69 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!