Arkansas & Louisiana: Spring 2017

Spring 2017: 1 Mar–31 May

Paul Conover (LA)

Kenny Nichols (AR)

Recommended citation:

Conover, P., and Nichols, K. 2021. Spring 2017: Arkansas & Louisiana. <> North American Birds.

Seasonal highlights include possible Cayenne Tern, Brown Booby, White-tailed Kite, Lesser Goldfinch, Lark Bunting and Bullock’s Oriole.

Significance for Arkansas records is based on Arkansas Birds, their distribution and abundance (James and Neal 1986) and the Arkansas Audubon Society (AAS) online bird record database (for records since 1986). The significance of Louisiana records is based on trends derived from the database of bird record cards submitted to and archived at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science (LSUMNS); records are taken from rare bird reports submitted to the Louisiana Bird Records Committee (LBRC) and to the Louisiana birding listserv (LABIRD).

Contributors (subregional editors in boldface):

Leif Anderson, John Anthony, Katie Barnes, Bill Beall, Janie Butler, Jerry Butler, Charlotte Chehotsky, Ned Coleman, Paul E. Conover (Louisiana), Alyssa DeRubels (ADR), Anant Deswhal, Robert C. Dobbs, Bill Ees, Tom Finnie, Bob Foehring, Megan Foil, Gary Frigon, Dawn Gray, Jim Holmes, Linda Hommena, Ted Hommena, David Krementz, Guy Luneau, Diane Mikrut (DMi), Charles Mills, Devin Moon (DMo), David P. Muth, B. Mac Myers III, Kenny Nations (KNa), Joe Neal, Jim Nieting, Kenny Nichols (Arkansas), LaDonna Nichols, Michael Nicodemus, Steve Pagans, Pooja Panwar, Vic Prisilipsky, Herschel Raney, J. Van Remsen, Joan Reynolds, Janine Robin (JRo), Trish Rowley, Cameron Rutt, Kitty Sanders, Don Simons, Claire Thomas, Renn Tumlinson, Terry Tumlinson, John Turner, Bo Verser, Phillip A. Wallace, Natalie Waters, Bradford Westrich, Kylie Wilson, Jon Wise, Tamalyn Wortham, Casey Wright, Glen Wyatt, Michelle Wyatt.

Abbreviations: County and parish names are italicized. Identifying state abbreviations are used in the accounts only in the first mention of a place/county/parish name unless confusion is otherwise unavoidable.

Waterfowl through Shorebirds

An incredible 1000 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were observed in eastern Miller 25 Apr (CM). This is, by far, the largest concentration of this species ever seen in Arkansas. Rare but annual, a drake Cinnamon Teal was spotted near Lonoke, Lonoke, AR 19 Mar (KW). A Surf Scoter at the Alma Wastewater Treatment Facility 7 Mar (JN) was a surprising first for Crawford, AR. Two Red-breasted Mergansers on Greers Ferry Lake, Cleburne, AR 28 May (KNa) were 3-4 weeks late and one of the latest spring sightings on record. Inca Dove continues to spread throughout Arkansas. Interesting reports were singles observed in Sherwood, Pulaski 22 Mar (GL), Morrilton, Conway 26 Apr (LA) and England, Lonoke 29 Apr (K&LN). Rare anywhere in the state oustside the Ft. Smith area, White-winged Doves were noted at separate locations in Little Rock, Pulaski 18 Apr (JeB, JaB) and 4 May (GL). Lesser Nighthawk is a rare but nearly annual spring migrant in Louisiana; one was photographed at Grand Isle, Jefferson 8-10 Apr (NC, JW, CW), another was at Peveto Woods BRAS, Cameron on 30 Apr (PEC, EE, BP), and a different bird present at Peveto Woods on 4-7 May (TF, JVR) was joined by yet another individual on 7 May (PEC). Extremely rare in northwest Arkansas, a calling King Rail videotaped at Woolsey Wet Prairie 29-30 May (ADR, JN) was a first for Washington. Another piece in the Black Rail puzzle fitted into place in Louisiana as birders fine-tuned their approach to searching for the species; one was heard calling at Rutherford Beach, Cameron on 24 March (JH), while observations of single individuals heard calling at Holly Beach 23 May (KB) and 24 May (JVR, CR) may have been the same bird. Rare so late, two Sandhill Cranes were observed at Frog Bayou WMA, Crawford 2 May (JN).

Though common in the southeast and eastern areas of the state, Black-necked Stilt is still quite rare in the Arkansas River Valley. One was observed at Frog Bayou WMA, Crawford 18 Apr (JN). An American Avocet photographed near Arkadelphia, AR 25 Apr (RT, TT) was the first for Clark in 12 years; a relatively large flock of 25 was observed at the UA Experimental Farm, Washington (JN, PP, AD). Rare and local in Arkansas in spring, a Hudsonian Godwit was at Bald Knob NWR, White 21 May (BF). Rare transient shorebirds in Arkansas included a Ruddy Turnstone observed resting on a log in the middle of Lake Dardanelle, Yell, after a night of heavy rain, 28 May (K&LN); a Sanderling at Lake Balboa, Garland 30 Apr (VP); and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper in eastern Miller 25 Apr (CM). Always a good find, especially in such numbers, 16 Willets were counted at Lake Balboa, Garland 26 Apr (VP).

Gulls through Creeper

A Little Gull photographed (DPM, JRo, CT) on Grand Isle, Jefferson, LA 22-23 April was a great find. A third-winter Thayer’s Gull at Dardanelle Lock & Dam, Yell 5 Mar (K&LN), was only about the eleventh occurrence for Arkansas. An Iceland Gull on the Thayer’s end of the spectrum was in Cameron, Cameron, LA on 2 Apr (PEC). Rare but annual in Louisiana, Glaucous Gull was in good numbers in Louisiana during the period, with one on 5 Apr at Fourchon, Lafourche (CW), one on Grand Isle, Jefferson on 25 Apr (RCD), and one on the other end of the state at Holly Beach, Cameron on 21 May (PEC). An intriguing yellow-billed tern with Sandwich Terns on Rutherford Beach, Cameron, LA on 11 Apr (BMM III, PAW) seemed a good candidate for a Cayenne Tern; however, variation within the species and the possibility of hybrid Sandwich Terns (with Elegant Tern in Florida, for example) might complicate the analysis of this bird. A Brown Booby photographed on Lake Hamilton, Garland 7 May (BW) was most likely the same bird seen at the same location 24 May (JA). Amazingly, Arkansas now has at least eight records of this species. Rare but seemingly on the increase, 30 White-faced Ibis were observed south of Arkadelphia, Clark 23 Apr (R&TT); a lone bird was at a fish pond south of Lonoke, Lonoke 29 Apr (K&LN). Three Roseate Spoonbills were observed near Empire, Chicot, AR 11 May (DK). This is just the third spring record on file. Very rare in any season, a White-tailed Kite was seen flying over the observer’s home on Mt. Magazine, Logan 30 Mar (DS). This is just the twelfth occurrence for Arkansas and a surprising second for Mt. Magazine.

The season’s only Golden Eagle report for Arkansas was that of an immature soaring high over the White River in Marion 18 Mar (DMi). A Golden Eagle seen and photographed close range at Catahoula Ranger District, Kisatchie NF, Grant, LA provided thrills on 14 Mar (SP). Very uncommon but regular, transient Peregrine Falcons were spotted in eastern Miller 25 Apr (CM), near Hickory Plains, Prairie 10 Apr (K&LN), and Frog Bayou WMA, Crawford 7 Apr  (BB, JNi, JN). A Great Crested Flycatcher at Logoly State Park, Columbia 25 Mar (DMo, BE) was the earliest ever spring sighting for Arkansas. Gray Kingbirds are rare but nearly annual in SE Louisiana, especially at Grand Isle, where one was found on 4 Apr (JVR); however, one discovered in SW Louisiana at Holly Beach, Cameron on 24 May (JVR) was much more of a surprise. There were two Black-whiskered Vireo reports for the spring, one at Elmer’s Island, Jefferson on 25 Apr (RCD), and one at Lighthouse Woods, Cameron on 5 May (CR). “Several” Bank Swallows were observed going into nest holes east of Coffeeville, Jackson, AR 14 May (HR, BV). While common in migration, this species is a very rare nesting species in the state. Rare but steadily increasing in Arkansas, two adult Cave Swallows were reported from eastern Miller 29 Apr (CM). Though not an invasion year for the species, Red-breasted Nuthatches were noted at Whitney Mountain, south of Garfield,  Benton, AR 17 Apr (JR, JN), and a very late bird was spotted at Dardanelle, Yell 14 May (K&LN). A Brown Creeper at Sweeden Island Rec Area, Pope, AR 5 May (LA) was a good 2–3 weeks late.

Pipits through Orioles

Very rare and local, a Sprague’s Pipit photographed at Bald Knob NWR 20 Mar (GW, MW) was just the second for White. Red Crossbills were observed feeding fledged young near Shores Lake, Franklin 4-5 Mar (BB, JNi, JN, JR). A nest of this species has never been found in Arkansas. Just the seventh occurrence for Arkansas, a Lesser Goldfinch was photographed visiting a feeder in Hot Springs Village, Garland 18 May (TH, LH). An Ammodramus sp. sparrow was flushed on the very late date of 25 May at Chesney Prairie Natural Area, Benton (ADR). A first-spring male Lark Bunting was discovered just south of Paris, Logan 13 May (K&LN). This is just the fourth Arkansas record of this species. A male Lark Bunting that flushed off of the side of the highway 2.7 mi west of the Cameron Ferry, Cameron, LA on 23 Apr (JH) was a good reason to catch a later ferry.

A Western Meadowlark at Harman Bottoms, Johnson, AR 13 May (LA) was late by at least three weeks. Two Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Bald Knob NWR, White 25 Apr (MN) and one at St. James, Stone, AR 9 May (MF) were rare so far east. Much farther west, an impressive 50 were counted at Kibler Bottoms, Crawford 2 May (JN). Just the sixth occurrence for Arkansas, a female Bullock’s Oriole was photographed at Bella Vista, Benton 3 May (GF). In Louisiana, Bullock’s Oriole is mainly a fall migrant and winterer; a second-year male Bullock’s Oriole that appeared in a yard on 24 March in Thibodaux, Lafourche was most likely a bird that had wintered locally (NW). Great-tailed Grackle’s continued expansion northeast along the I-30 corridor was evidenced by seven birds at the Caddo Valley exit, Clark 15 May (K&LN). Rare and less than annual, a Cape May Warbler was identified at Jim Kress WMA, Cleburne 7 May (TW). An alternate-plumaged “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler feeding on a lawn in Lake Charles, Calcasieu, LA on 9 Apr (CC) was an attractive surprise. A Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak hybrid was photographed at Eureka Springs, Carroll, AR 28 Apr (JT). There are less than 25 Lazuli Bunting sightings on file for Arkansas, but incredibly, there were four reports with photographs for the season: one in St. Francis 23 Apr (DG); one in Fayetteville, Washington 4 May (KS); one in Midland, Sebastian 5 May (TR); and one at Bella Vista, Benton 7 May (GF).

Report processed by Randi Minetor 12 Feb 2021.

This Sandwich Tern (top), observed perpetuating the species on Rutherford Beach, Cameron Parish, Louisiana on 11 Apr 2017, displayed an extensively yellow bill suggestive of “Cayenne Tern”, a population from South America. However, individual and geographic variation within American populations of Sandwich Tern is complicated and not yet well understood. Photo by © Phillip A. Wallace