Missouri & Arkansas May 05—14, 2017
Posted by Steve Hilty
Despite an unusually strong and rainy weather system the week prior to our trip, with up to twelve inches of rainfall in some portions of the Ozarks, we enjoyed good weather during our trip, and only one rainy morning. So where did all that rain go so quickly?
Our visit to Prairie State Park in western Missouri started with a few adventures, beginning with a Barred Owl perched in the open on an electric wire at dawn. Minutes later we stopped for a lively group of migrating Bobolinks on fence wires and in pastures. Scopes were set up for views of males and females. And then, as I departed, there was a crackling radio message from Rafael…his van had become mired in the soft shoulder on the road. Two farmhouses later I managed to roust a barefoot and only partially-dressed farmer from his breakfast, who quickly came to our rescue with a heavy chain and sturdy four-wheel drive pickup. Then, almost in the blink of an eye, he was gone, heading toward the sunrise and the town of Lamar.
Prairie State Park was fairly teeming with birds—large flocks of migrating Eastern Kingbirds in fields of sprouting corn, and Dickcissels, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Brown Thrashers, and other prairie birds calling, singing, and dashing about from roadsides and thickets. Eventually even a shy little Henslow’s Sparrow was enticed into view. A good diversity of tallgrass prairie flowers were evident in several prairie areas, although prairie management (fires are integral) by the park seems neglected compared to a decade ago. Flowering plants we identified included Yellow Star Grass, Wood Betony, Rose Verbena (Vervain), False Garlic, Paintbrush, Cream Wild Indigo, and Green-flowered Milkweed among others. Following an afternoon drive to Eureka Springs we made a “short” drive-through tour of this unique city and no, we didn’t see all 92 springs that bubble forth within the city, but we did see a good sample.
Our second day brought us face-to-face with the power of recent floods. Although almost all of the lovely and quiet road in Roaring River State Park that we walked was fine, we eventually reached an upper section where the road was entirely washed away. Blue-winged Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, Paw-paws, trilliums, larkspurs, and our first introduction to the diversity of Ozark trees filled our morning. Afternoon took us to the first of several “balds,” where we had wonderful views of a Yellow-breasted Chat, a Prairie Warbler (feeding young at a nest in a low scrubby tree), and our first views of the sprawl of Branson’s music theater district.