CINNAMON TEAL (0) AND THE IDEE FIXE

The French might call pursuit of a spring Cinnamon Teal in Arkansas an “idee fixe.”
That is, belief against the odds that northward-bound flocks of Blue-winged and
Green-winged Teal must include this common western bird. It’s a useful, if almost
universally unfulfilled, idea. But I’m ahead of myself here.

Our Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip to Shores Lake-Fern commenced in a
light cool rain, happily soon ended. Pine Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler,
Yellow-throated Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrushes around Shores Lake were welcomed
spring firsts for most.

Bill Beall and Jim Nieting had previously scouted for Brown-headed Nuthatches in the
shortleaf pine stands in this scenic area of the Ozark NF. Bill worked up a
hand-out, with mileage, for 15 spots where they found nuthatches on March 14. As
usual, these cavity nesting birds were in the secretive mode, but at the very first
stop we had good looks at two birds. Pine Warblers and Eastern Towhees sang at every
stop.

It would have been easy enough to spend all day here, especially with the sun
beginning, among spreading pussy toes, among all that is novel and beckoning in
fragrant mountain pines, and most especially, since there were many more places on
Bill’s hand-out. But the idea about those valley teal also beckoned, and lying
between us and them, the bathroom and snacks at Dyer truck stop.

Sandy Berger conducted us through the valley with focus on Frog Bayou WMA. Morning
rain had given way to an enthusiasm-dampening sharp east wind. Out in Dyer bay, duck
species (~200) were too far away and water too choppy for ID. Closer: American Coot
(40) and Snow Geese (snows and blues, ~100). Arkansas Game and Fish has modified the
original moist soil units.

It was too uncomfortable to walk the whole thing, but we did see a promising large
shallow water pond that reminds me of those birdy units at Red Slough, especially in
the future with development of aquatic vegetation.

We walked in far enough to see an extensive attractively muddy flat. And even being
blown around, we were able to tally American Golden-Plover (~125), Greater
Yellowlegs (~40), Northern Shoveler (~60), Blue-winged Teal (~40), Green-winged Teal
(~30), Gadwall (~20), Hooded Merganser (11). Bald Eagles (2 adults) and American
White Pelicans (14) flew over us. With its new focus, Frog warrants investigation on
the next calm, warm day.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (6) were right along the road as we drove toward Alma
sewer plant. In a farm pond just east, Blue-winged Teal (~125), closely attended by
a mixed-species flock of swallows: mostly Tree (~60), but also Barn (10),
Rough-winged (2) and Cliff (1). Behind, a cloud of American Pipits, that just
vanished.

After picking through those flying swallows for a Bank (0), they rewarded our
efforts with a Roger Tory Peterson look, all perched pretty-as-a-painting on wires,
right above us.

Joe Neal

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