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Birding Around Town - Eclipse Day and All is Normal

The store is closed on Mondays. That may change in the future, but for now, it means I get to get outside and do a little birding around town on my day off.

One of my favorite places to go birding in NWA is at the Charlie Craig State Fish Hatchery in Centerton. This place is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to raise fry for stocking ponds, but they also do a nice job of managing it for wildlife, especially birds. As a consequence, it is one of the birdiest locations in NWA. According to eBird entries, 259 species have been see there over the years.

Upon arriving at The Ponds (what I like to call the hatchery), the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. Truth is not much activity was going on at all. I doubt any of it had to do with the impending eclipse as there was no tell-tale sign that an eclipse was about to take place in the next few hours. No, the quietness was simply normal for this time of year, and I knew that. August is the month when the birds go silent. Breeding season is over (or nearly so), there is no reason to actively defend a territory or acquire a mate, so the males stop singing. It's part of their physiology and driven by decreasing day lengths.

Mid-August is also the time when the shorebirds start arriving in our area from the more northern climes. The hatchery will often draw down a couple of their ponds in order to harvest the young fish, but in so doing, they create wonderful exposed mudflats that shorebirds love and need. NWA is not exactly a shorebird haven, but every little bit helps. We are a stop-over site for many birds; a place of respite and refueling for the long journey to the southern end of our planet. Being a stop-over location may not seem very sexy, but we all appreciate the gas station and the restaurant between where we are and where we are going, so when you think about it in those terms, it doesn't seem so bad after all.

Today, a few shorebirds were on hand taking advantage of the meal in the mud. There were a few Spotted Sandpipers in winter plumage and a few "peeps" mostly Lesser Sandpipers. As I walked along the rock lined path, three Green Herons flushed as did a couple of Great Blue Herons. I meandered around the grounds and noticed that everywhere I put my binoculars juvenile birds were seen. This, too, was expected as this time of year most of the birds seen are newly fledged young. Robins with spotted breasts were prevalent, but there were also several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers with noticeably short tails. The screech from a Red-tailed Hawk resounded above, which stood out all the more because of the lack of other sounds. Rounding out the morning a Bald Eagle flew from its perch as it saw me long before I saw him.

Yes, all was quiet and quite normal for this time of year. But since it was the first time I was able to go birding since May, I enjoyed it immensely.

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