I'm not much of a morning person, so I was a bit amazed with myself as I stumbled out of bed and got into the car before sunrise on Friday. I was driving to the Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge, located about six miles from Dardanelle, Arkansas. I hoped to time the drive so that I got to the refuge at sunrise, but my timing was off and I got there a bit after the sun was up.
Holla Bend is the home for thousands of birds who spend the winter there every year. As I got into the park I hurriedly drove down the dirt roads trying to find some wildlife, fearing that I had arrived too late to find anything. I turned a bend in the road and then saw an entire field that was just covered with snow geese. There must have been thousands of them there, all loudly honking to one another. I got there just as they all took off at once, soaring up and filling the sky.
It was truly an amazing sight. The birds flew up and over where I was standing. I had to check to make sure that the birds didn't get me with any sort of droppings. I managed to survive unscathed, but my poor car did get hit.
My zoom lens isn't all that great, so I needed to get a bit closer to the birds for some better shots. I tried to sneak around in the hope they wouldn't notice me. For the most part they ignored me but did all manage to fly off to another side of the field. There was a ditch through the field, so I did get this shot of them in air with a reflection.
I tried for a few more shots and then moved to a different area along the road. There was a little pond there, so I sat waiting for the birds to decide to all take off again. I had to wait for maybe ten minutes before something spooked them and they set off in a hurry.
Holla Bend is also a popular spot for Bald Eagles. They like to dine on the ducks and geese that stay here, which must actually be a big buffet for them considering how many birds are there. I drove along some of the roads trying to find some eagles, but had no luck. I saw a few large birds nestled in trees, but could never tell if they were eagles or hawks. As soon I would get close to them, they would of course take off and move to another tree. I didn't understand why the birds would fear me. If they swooped down towards me with their giant claws out I'd get scared and probably pass out. I aimlessly drove around the park and ended up giving up without any good eagle pictures.
Near where the snow geese were hanging out was a small pond with some trumpeter swans in it:
The weather then got a bit screwy. There wasn't a cloud in the sky at sunrise, but all of a sudden clouds rolled in and covered the sun. A slight fog (or smoke?) hung out along the horizon, and it all combined for some odd light. Since I wasn't able to find much wildlife, the camera was turned to some trees. Here is a huge old tree in the refuge, which I messed around some with in photoshop:
I then stopped at a small lake and walked around some. The light was still strange, so I got a few more shots of it:
After that I left the park and drove up to the nearby Mt. Nebo State Park. I didn't end up taking many pictures up there, and the ones that I did take didn't really turn out all that great. From there I drove up Hwy. 7 towards Longpool....