Missouri & Arkansas May 02—11, 2014

Posted by Steve Hilty


Steve Hilty

Steve Hilty is the senior author of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, and author of Birds of Venezuela, both by Princeton University Press, as well as the popular Birds of ...

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This trip is a complete immersion into the Ozarks and adjacent tallgrass prairie regions, including birds, botany, geology, hydrology, human history, and just about all other living things large and small. Our focus, of course, is on birds in the early morning hours, but shifts to botanizing and other aspects of natural history later in the day.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler— Photo: Roger Bennett


During our eight-day journey we visited three tallgrass prairies and a spectacular cave, floated a section of the Buffalo River, spent an evening listening to old-time folk music and an afternoon at the Ozark Craft Center, hiked and explored numerous lovely natural sites and trails including a spectacular natural bridge, and ended with visits to four different springs including Mammoth Spring, the tenth largest in the world, and another that is surely among the bluest and most beautiful of all. We think this trip is one of the best-kept secrets in the country, and our list of 27 species of warblers (many of them almost daily) and over 230 species of plants identified during the trip, as well as numerous mammals, herps, and even a few butterflies, are just part of what makes this trip so interesting.

Bird highlights included warblers throughout the trip, including a male Cerulean Warbler, two Worm-eating Warblers, and Swainson’s Warbler. We also enjoyed several lovely Scarlet Tanagers, a Mississippi Kite, Little Blue Heron (scarce this time of year), Roadrunner, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Harris’s, Henslow’s, Grasshopper, and Clay-colored sparrows. There were also close views of Green Herons, Wood Ducks, and Bald Eagles. Interesting botanical finds included Smoke tree, Fringe tree, Mountain Azalea, and Red Buckeye in flower, as well as Ozark Chinkapin, Leatherwood, Large Yellow Lady Slipper Orchids, Wild Yams, and Walking Ferns.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck— Photo: Steve Hilty

The weather was perfect for the canoe trip—partly sunny with a symphony of bird song along the Buffalo River. Wild Bill’s fiberglass canoes glided smoothly over deep bass pools and quick-running riffles while Map Turtles basked on logs, and Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Spotted Sandpipers, Wood Ducks, and even Bald Eagles flushed ahead of our canoes. And, we had the river almost to ourselves; during our entire trip we met only one group of five sunburned young fishermen who had managed to catch only three fish.

The Blanchard and Mountain View areas offer caves, springs, warblers, a tremendous diversity of interesting plants, old-time music, crafts, and plenty of southern food. We finished the trip with a stop on the Missouri-Arkansas border at Mammoth Spring, a dinner at Fred’s Fish House (a cultural as well as culinary experience), and followed with a day visiting three different kinds of springs—Greer, which boils up with great force; Falling Spring, which issues from a cliff; and Blue Spring, which is stunning for its clarity, color, and peaceful setting.