Weather is always a factor, but this year Arkansas had its fifth worst season. Fourteen percent of the counts were moderately impacted by rain, fog, or wind and 28% were severely impacted by rain or Covid. Overall, 41% of the counts were impacted in some form, which was 7% above the 15-year average.
Covid-19 had a heavy impact on one count that canceled, smartly so, and another that lost access to some very good habitat. Statewide, the biggest impact wasn’t to the birds, but to the social aspect of the counts.
Many observers commented on how slow the birding was and the reduction of 1% in miles, -6% in hours, the -19% in observers, the -35% of individual birds, Covid 19 and the weather certainly contributed to the “slow” birding.
In Arkansas 29 counts were submitted with ten counts having more than 90 species. Lake Dardanelle (116), Holla Bend NWR (110), Pine Bluff (108), Conway (95), Arkadelphia and Big Lake NWR (94), Lonoke (93), Lake Georgia Pacific/Felsenthal NWR (91), White River NWR (91), and Wapanocca/Shelby Forest (90). The high species count of 116, was average. Pond Creek NWR (88), set a new species high. Pine Bluff had the most new or unusual species (8), and Lake Dardanelle had the most species high counts (9) and the most individuals (333,451). Fayetteville had the most observers (34), Parties (11) and hours (71.5). The 152 species statewide was considerably down from last year’s 173.
Multiple reports were received of Eastern Bluebird mortality inside nest boxes because of a major winter storm in Feb 2021. This storm featured 12 inches plus of snow; one-quarter to one-half inch of ice; below zero wind chills, for a week’s time. This storm occurred in multiple states including Arkansas. Unfortunately, it occurred as some EABL were pairing-up and choosing nest boxes. We looked at the 122nd data to see how long lasting the impact was. Statewide, EABL was 41% below the average, 56% below the 121st count and the worst flight in 43 years. For the individual counts two were above average, at 11 & 26%. Eighteen were below average. Nine set 69 year record lows. The below average range was from 22 to 92%! Overall, the decline was 58% across the individual counts.
Other species showed suspicious one-year declines included Northern Cardinal 34%, Carolina Wren 53%, Northern Mockingbird 57%, and Brown Thrasher 64%.
The numbers for the following bird highlights are normalized by dividing by the party hours. The best number of species and number of individuals occurred 12/25-12/30, closely followed by 12/31-1/5. The best number of species occurred in the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain/Crowley’s Ridge and the Pine Country of the South-Central Plains eco-regions. The best number of individuals occurred in the Grand Prairie and the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain/Crowley’s Ridge eco-regions.
The broad groups, were normalized by party hours and ranked for 69 years, presenting data for the last two years. Geese set two high records in three years, followed by this year’s 9th best flight. Dabblers had their 31st best, and their 35th best flights, 22% below average. Divers had their 19th and their 44th best flights, 22% below average. Semi-hardy Waterbirds had their 2nd best and their 13th best flights, 113% above average. Raptors had a record high and their 3rd best flight, 92% above average. Shorebirds had their 29th best and their 6th worst flights, the worst in 31 years, at 59% below average. Gulls had their 17th best and 21st best flights, 32% below average. Semi-hardy Lingerers had their 36th best and 2nd worst flights, 44% below average, and the worst in 58 years. Grassland species had their 8th worst and their 2nd worst flights, setting record lows in two of the last four years, 72% below average. Irruptives had their 8th best and 42nd best flights, 33% below average. Blackbirds had their 22nd best, and 36th best flights, 93% below average. Western species had their 23rd best and 8th best flights, 101% above average. Frugivores had their 10th worst flight and their 15th worst flights, 96% below average. Upland gamebirds had their 11th worst flight and their 6th worst flights, 68% below average.
Setting a new 69-year high was Red-shouldered Hawk (4th record high year in-a-row).
Wood Duck had their strongest flight in 12 years. Double-crested Cormorant had the best flight in 19 years. Cattle Egret had the best flight in 13 years. Feral Rock Pigeon had their strongest flight in 15 years. Eastern Screech-Owl had their best flight in 18 years. Pileated Woodpecker had a record year, followed by two strong years; American Crow had their two best flights in 43 years and Western Meadowlark had the best flight in 21 years.
Meanwhile, 69-year lows were set this year by Northern Harrier, Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, and Eastern Meadowlark.
Greater White-fronted Goose had two record years, followed by the worst flight in eight years. Cackling Goose had the worst flight in ten years. Gadwall had the worst flight in 23 years. Mallard had the worst flight in 28 years. Redhead had the worst flight in 13 years. Ruddy Duck had the worst flight in 12 years. Pied-billed Grebe had the worst flight in 15 years. Red-tailed Hawk had the worst flight in 31 years. American Coot had the worst flight in 32 years. Killdeer had the worst flight in 26 years. Mourning Dove had the worst flight in 33 years. Greater Roadrunner had the worst flight in 11 years. Yellow-belied Sapsucker had a record high two years ago, followed by a decline, and now the worst flight in 24 years. Eastern Phoebe had the worst flight in 17 years. Brown-headed Nuthatch had the worst flight in 12 years. House Wren had two record highs in-a-row, followed by a 49% drop. Carolina Wren had three record highs, followed by a 49% decline. Eastern Bluebird had the worst flight in 43 years. Hermit Thrush had the worst flight in 55 years. Lapland Longspur had the worst flight in 30 years. Pine Warbler had the worst flight in 54 years. White-throated Sparrow had a record high, followed by a 25% drop. Vesper Sparrow had the worst flight in 40 years. Savannah Sparrow had the worst flight in 30 years. Song Sparrow had the worst flight in 40 years. And Northern Cardinal had the worst flight in 18 years.
Irruptives, were normalized by party hours and ranked for 69 years, presenting data for the last two years. Cedar Waxwings had their 18th best and now the 25th best flight. Red-breasted Nuthatch had their 9th best and the 12th best flight, 131% above average. Red Crossbills had their 2nd best flight and no birds this season. Purple Finch had their 38th and their 3rd worse flight, 86% below ave. Pine Siskin had their 3rd best and the 50th best flight 85% below ave.
The 122nd CBC missed only two common/uncommon occurring species – Trumpeter Swan (Two misses in a row) and Red-breasted Merganser (First miss in 14 years).
Species found only on one count included: Common Moorhen (Arkadelphia); Northern Waterthrush (Big Lake NWR); American Tree Sparrow (Fayetteville); White-winged Dove (Fort Smith/ Moffett); “Krider’s” & “Harlan’s” Red-tailed Hawks (Holla Bend NWR): Common Merganser (Hot Springs NP); Mute Swan (Jonesboro); Peregrine Falcon (Lake Dardanelle); Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Lake Georgia Pacific-Felsenthal NWR); Black-crowned Night-Heron (Mississippi River SP); Green Heron and Forster’s Tern (Pine Bluff); and “Oregon” Dark-eyed Junco (Texarkana).
Species found only on two counts included: Spotted Sandpiper (Arkadelphia); Northern Bobwhite (Buffalo National River-East); Gray Catbird (Conway); Palm Warbler (Fayetteville); Spotted Sandpiper (Fort Smith/Moffett); Northern Bobwhite and Barn Owl (Holla Bend NWR); Least Sandpiper and Great-tailed Grackle (Lake Dardanelle); White Ibis (Lake Georgia Pacific/ Felsenthal NWR); Cattle Egret and Greater Yellowlegs (Lonoke); Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Magnolia/Lake Columbia); Cattle Egret, Sora, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Palm Warbler (Pine Bluff); Gray Catbird (Pond Creek NWR); White Ibis, Least Sandpiper and Great-tailed Grackle (Texarkana); Barn Owl (Wapanocca/Shelby Fort); and Sora, Greater Yellowlegs and dowitcher sp. (White River NWR).
The first Arkansas CBC record of Northern Waterthrush at Big Lake NWR was the bird of-the-year.
This year’s sponsors were: The Audubon Society of Central AR, Big Lake NWR, Buffalo River Partners Inc. City of Hot Springs, The Disorganized Bird Club, Felsenthal NWR, Friends of Felsenthal NWR, Friends of Holla Bend NWR, Garland County Audubon, Holla Bend NWR, Hot Springs NP, Hot Springs Village Audubon, Lake Catherine SP, Mississippi River SP, Mount Magazine SP, North Central AR Audubon Society, Northwest AR Audubon Society, Ouachita-Caddo Bird Club, Ozark-St. Francis NFs, Tennessee Ornithological Society, Texarkana Audubon Society, Three Rivers Audubon Society, and Village Creek SP.
It can never be said frequently enough: All the compilers, co-compilers and volunteers deserve a big “THANK YOU” for your hard work!