Weekend Wandering #1

After much talk, acquiring a more comfortable traveling vehicle, and a few false starts – Gary and I enjoyed our first Weekend Wandering.  We left home Saturday morning and headed south to Walnut Ridge – hoping for lunch at the “local legend” Polar Freeze BBQ – which , unfortunately, was closed. So, we continued south and had a late (and very unremarkable) breakfast at IHOP in Jonesboro. On the ride down we saw numerous flocks of geese over, in and around the flooded fields – speckle-bellied, snow and canadian – but none were close enough to get any really good pictures.P1050432.JPG

We continued south to Parkin Archaeological State Park – home to an archaeological dig and preservation of a Mississippian Era (1400-1650) Native American village. There were tools, pottery, jewelry, and other artifacts on display and some very interesting educational displays that we looked over, but we were actually there for something completely different.

Drum roll, please ………

We are the newest Certified Volunteer Frog Monitors in the Northeast Arkansas Chapter of Frog Watch USA!  We participated in a 3 hour workshop – listening to frog calls, eating frog decorated cupcakes, learning how to choose a monitoring site (for us, that means sitting out on the screen porch), and passing a certification test. Every week during frog breeding season (Feb 1- Aug 31) we will submit data on the weather conditions and the frogs that we hear during a 3 minute time period. This will help Frog Watch USA collect all kinds of scientific data on the frogs in Arkansas. What can I say, many couples have weekly date nights – we’re gonna have Frog Nights!

After the program was over, we headed west toward Searcy, AR. The weather had changed drastically while we were inside, and we had rain for the duration of our weekend. The weather limited wildlife sightings and the camera stayed on the floor of the backseat, but we still saw some cool stuff — migrating storks in a field, more snow geese landing in the fields like white tornadoes, LOTS of roadkill opossums, pintail ducks swimming at the edge of an unharvested cotton field and several new calves with their mommas.

We ate at Sladers Alaskan Dumpling Co – a unique little place in Searcy, staffed and populated by college students – and were pleasantly surprised by the chicken and beef dumplings served with melted butter, cilantro, curry and sweet sriracha sauce, and then checked in to the LaQuinta for the night.

Sunday morning was even wetter than Saturday – but we stuck with the plan to take an alternate, back road route home- and switching drivers, (so Gary could look out the window without giving me a heart attack every time). We stopped at the Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge – only to discover that it is closed to the public during the heaviest duck migration months (Nov – Feb) because, after all, it is a refuge (duh, Krisellen!) Back on the road home we saw a flock of wild turkeys (with a few white ones mixed in), more dead possums, more geese and even a flock of trumpeter swans….P1050445.JPG

We didn’t see many cars on the road….because every church parking lot we passed was FULL (and there are A LOT of churches in AR.) We ate lunch at the Old County Seat Store and Cafe in Smithville, AR – beating the after church crowd by mere minutes – and ordered homemade pie to go. We found ONE place open – 2 minutes from home – and stopped there to browse the “trash” looking for treasures, but didn’t find any. We got home early enough to enjoy the football game, and even do some “home stuff.”

It was a fun weekend- and with a few minor tweaks, future wanderings will be even better! Stay tuned!

 

 

Tricolor Heron

While I was in Fort Myers Beach I discovered a small backwater pond and this tricolor heron fishing in it. P1040608.JPGI used the opportunity to try out several different settings on my camera- trying to compensate for the glare from the sand, the shadows of the mangroves, the extremely bright sunshine and his fast movement.

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His colors were fabulous – and he was almost machine-like in his ability to stalk and catch minnows.(I watched him eat at least a dozen while I was there.)

Although the minnows put up a good fight….

all of them ended up like this….p1040599p1040601

It was neat to watch him having lunch and I got to learn a little more about my camera and post editing too.

Pileated Woodpecker

Looks like one of the oak trees near the lake is entering it’s final stages – transitioning from a provider of oxygen, shade, and acorns to a source of insects and new soil amendments. There are Pileateds in the woods all around me – heard and seen as they travel around, but infrequent visitors to my yard and never seen on my feeders since I moved here. I did see a Mom and “baby” scoping out one of my trees late last summer, and obviously it stuck in someone else’s memory bank, because this morning Mr. P spent some time getting breakfast.P1050127.JPG

He was there for quite a while – in the fog – hammering at the tree and the log near the base. After he left, I went down to survey his handiwork.

Pretty impressive pecking….

Snowy Egret

It seems as though there are waterbirds everywhere on the island of Fort Myers Beach — including in the neighbor’s pool.P1040427.JPG

This guy was on the edge of their outdoor pool every day, flying in with a loud squawk to announce his arrival and then pacing the edges of the pool. Not much fazed him – neither the dog nor the neighbor’s appearance ruffled his feathers, and the chlorine in the pool didn’t stop him from drinking and bathing in it.

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I’ll admit – I’m thinking of ways to attract and ‘keep’ my own personal waterbird back in Arkansas.

Bird Island

 

There are numerous small mangrove islands scattered throughout the bays in Fort Myers – and many of them are are nesting sites for different waterbirds. These nesting areas are so common that there is actually one on the map – appropriately named Bird Shit Island. This particular “bird island” was very close to the canal entrance where we stayed last week – and it always had a variety of birds around, over, or on it. P1040962.JPG

On this particular day, I counted 7 different species sharing nesting/roosting space…all of them somewhat organized within the chaos.

On the south side – the brown pelicans were the dominant occupants- nesting so close to one another that they collided upon landing.P1040959.JPG

On the north side – the magnificent frigatebirds with their 7 foot wingspans…P1040978.JPG

The east end was home to the reddish egrets….P1040984.JPG

and the cormorants (neotropic and double crested) had the west end….P1040968.JPG

Scattered throughout the top of the island were great blue herons …

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and an anahinga was hanging out in the lower branches …P1040433.JPG

There was always someone preening, or flying off, or landing, or feeding their babes, or fishing or sunning or something. I could have floated next to them for hours and never gotten bored.

 

A Little Bit Of Everything