HARDWOOD FORESTS ON KESSLER MOUNTAIN dominate the skyline in south Fayetteville.
Yesterday, Swainson’s Thrushes and other north bound migrants dominated ALL.
Nashville and Kentucky Warblers were singing along the base of that long,
flat-topped mountain. Turkey Vultures and Broad-winged Hawks were soaring above.
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are nesting all over abandoned farmlands.
Of importance to the birding community, Doug and Fran James raised a family on
Kessler slopes. Doug’s professional ecological interests involving Kessler over the
years provided biological undergirding for the ultimately successful preservation
efforts by Frank Sharp, Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association, and others. And
so, as Fayetteville and northwest Arkansas expand, we have Kessler Mountain Reserve,
several hundred protected acres of mature forest near the University of Arkansas.
Yesterday’s spring migration trip was courtesy of Mary Bess Mulhollan’s recent
birthday. Four of us – MB, son Kelly and daughter-law Donna, traveled Kessler’s base
and slopes where the Mulhollans and their musician friends annually perform this
selection/section on our local Christmas Bird Count.
We could have taken a 2-mile hike, a fun but pretty limited way of finding birds in
over 1000+ acres of public and private land. Instead, we slow-cruised public roads
east, north, and west that access lower mountain slopes.
Kessler’s public forest and adjacent private lands support roughly 90% of breeding
upland forests bird species (Arkansas Birds, 1986; Table 3-1). We encountered many:
Pileated and Hairy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, three vireo species,
White-breasted Nuthatch, etc. We started with a Blue Grosbeak near the reserve’s
entrance off Cato Springs Road and ended with a fledgling Eastern Bluebird near
Cemetery Hill Memorial Park in the west. Throughout, dominant mature oaks featured
singing Summer Tanagers (10).
We had transients and interesting summer residents, including some first of season
(FOS): Eastern Wood-Pewee (1, FOS), Least Flycatcher (1, FOS), Gray-Cheeked Thrush
(2), Swainson’s Thrush (25+, everywhere), Tennessee Warbler (1), Nashville Warbler
(8), Northern Parula (nests, 4), Yellow-rumped Warbler (2; in breeding plumage),
Yellow-throated Warbler (nests; 1), Black-and-white Warbler (nests, 6), Northern
Waterthrush (1), Kentucky Warbler (nests, 6), Common Yellowthroat (1, FOS), Hooded
Warbler (nests; 2), Yellow-breasted Chat (FOS), Clay-colored Sparrow (1), Lincoln’s
Sparrow (2), White-throated Sparrows (many; in constant song), Blue Grosbeak (nests,
FOS), Dickcissel (nests, 1), Orchard Oriole (nests, 3). We looked for Painted
Buntings in the usual places, but I guess were too early.
In Kessler Country, protected mountain forest verges into a bloviating walmartia.
But elsewhere, especially in the hard-to-access south, and the relatively
easy-to-access Farmington side, there are pastures and small farms. On these
not-so-often traveled roads, we especially enjoyed numerous sightings of those
notorious winter season skulkers — and hence hard to find Christmas birds — Brown
Thrashers, now turned roadrunner, with attitude, long tail, and long legs to prove