Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eldehostel 08 - Queen Wilhelmina and surrounding area

May 15, 08, Thursday

Really foggy morning, I mean really. Nobody came for the seven o'clock hike, which would have been pointless. After breakfast the stalwarts headed for the north side trail that goes to Lover's Leap. Why is it never accountant's leap or lawyer' leap. Anyway in dripping fog and drizzling trees we got the king of Kentucky Warblers. It came for its own call. It came for all the others. It followed us, and at one point seemed about to attack my shoe; that close. More looks at several other woodland birds that we'd already seen. We wandered around in the fog up on the hilltop, but finally gave up. By the time we saw anything we were so close that they either flushed, or couldn't see any color or detail. So we ate and slept until it was time to drive below the fog to Boles and meet Joe Neal (who birded down the county road with us for about thirty minutes) and then Brad and Allison the interpreter trainee and Daniel the new Ranger. Then we drove down Buffalo Creek road making several stops.

The first was a dip on the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, hereafter RCWs, but some good birds, Chat, some warblers, and then a flock of Red Crossbills. I thought Joe was going to dance a jig. It's a really rare bird in Arkansas, new for my state list for sure. We chased up the hill trying to get the right angles for viewing (they were way in the tops of the cone filled trees), and finally were pretty sure we had a flock of sixteen. Also a great look at a Red-headed Woodpecker. At the next stop we called in a pair of RCWs, a life bird for almost everyone. Same for the Brown-headed Nuthatch that we got back at the road. We got a Prairie Warbler to call back clearly, but it wouldn't come out for a look. We made a couple more stops trying to get a Bachman's Sparrow to come to the tape, without luck. Drove back to Y city for a bathroom break, then back to the woods for dinner. This was big tables and chairs set up out of the back of the park truck and good thick sandwiches and fixins. Great conversation, laughter and stories while waiting for dusk. Around eight we packed up, the park folks headed back, and the Elderhostlers went to our Whipchucking corner. When it was about totally dark we got the two nightjars, but earlier we also had Common Nighthawks. Three nightjar night and enough to let us get back to the lodge. Added eleven species for the trip.

May 16, 08, Friday.

Birded the campground again on a clear chilly windy morning. Mostly hoping for Orchard Oriole, but dipped. Breakfast and then down the mountain into Mena, and check out the train station museum. It was OK, and had a Lum & Abner room which fit in with going to the Lum & Abner store next. Good thing too since we found a Blue Grosbeak there, the only one of the trip. Those two stops and a drive to Waldren and getting gas used up enough of the morning to call for lunch, good cheap Mexican. Huevos Rancheros, yummm. That set us up for more birding.

We went to an area near the forest service District Office, that we call the ranches. The luck got good, with Karen, a Hostler finding another Painted Bunting, and then to fulfill her wish and repay her luck, I found two Bald Eagles, her main target for the trip, flying fairly high but low enough for good details. Down the road we got shorebirds, a Common Merganser, and a Savannah Sparrow. The good finds were adding up. Then we decided to go to Heavener, OK to see the Runestone. Quandary: whether to go back to Waldron and get another highway, or stay on the one we were on and catch the other farther west after county dirt road bushwhacking. I opted for bushwhacking. It worked pretty well, the dirt road got smaller and narrower, became a forest road, we were checking map and compass, when a farmer came by and I begged directions. Good thing too sine there were intersections and turns not on the map, and signs were unheard of out there in remote Scott County. WE ended exactly where we wanted, and went on to the Runestone Park. Got a Roadrunner there. The stone is about twelve feet tall and wide, pretty immense, and the runes are a foot tall and, well, runic. I had the sense they were authentic, and threw a new angle into my prehistory ideas.

Back to the lodge by the west end of Talamena Drive, a short break, another too much supper with dessert, final list tallies, good cheer, prizes and what-not. Now I'm writing this journal, and I'm tired. Good-night.

May 17, 08, Saturday

We were out of Queen Wilhelmina by 7:45, and had delivered Margaret and Patty to the Ft Smth Airport by 9:45. Would have been sooner but for air show traffic. Into Devil's Den for more good-byes, and shifting stuff into my truck to go to Gloria's. She and I had lunch in West Fork, then delivered the van back to Avis at the mall. I dropped her and her stuff at her house and went on home. Not a great pile of mail, house OK, took a big nap.


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