Our day began at 2:15 AM in the parking lot of the Pelican Rapids hotel in Ft. Smith. It was a bit noisy due to the drunken partiers from the nearby bar (just closed), but we still managed to hear COMMON NIGHTHAWK, CHIPPING, SONG and LINCOLNS SPARROWS singing away. On the outskirts of town we heard the first two of ten GREAT HORNED OWLS recorded during the day.
We drove pretty much due west from Ft. Smith to an area known as the Fox Hole. We arrived at this wetland around 3:00 AM when the photo below was taken. You can see it is pretty light already! In fact, we were so far north there was always some light in the sky.
The amount of bird song at this early hour was remarkable. We spent about 45 minutes birding this wetland area and our list was 40 species by 4 AM. Among the highlights were both LECONTES (see photo below) and NELSONS SPARROWS, MARSH WRENS, SORAS, AMERICAN COOT, and SANDHILL CRANES. One of the best sightings was a pair of WHOOPING CRANES seen briefly flying to the west and then dropping out of sight.
It was a spectacular morning but mighty chilly. We were happy we had filled the thermos with hot coffee from the overnight pot from our hotel. Any coffee is better than none when you are cold!!
We had lots of ground to cover and in the Ft. Smith area we really wanted to get as many songbirds as possible. This area has lots of big trees, and good habitat diversity so many species reach the northern limits of their breeding grounds here. One of the key families was warblers, with about 16 species reasonable possible here. A key target was CONNECTICUT WARBLER. We had found one the day before and when we pulled up to the spot at 5:00 AM he was singing away! This pic below of this rare bird was taken the day before.