Monday, January 10, 2011

Holla Bend

As Mattie Ross would say, Holla Bend is located "near Dardanelle, in Yell County, Arkansas." The Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge is actually located about six miles downriver from Dardanelle. The refuge includes over 7,000 acres of fields, forests and water. The refuge is surrounded on three sides by an oxbow lake, and on one side by the Arkansas River. Over 100,000 birds will make a temporary home here during certain months of the year, and it remains a popular spot for people to get some bird photos.

The incredible downside to getting pictures here is the fact that the birds are most active in the early morning hours. Which means, of course, that you have to get there right around sunrise to get to see the birds before they fly off and do whatever it is that birds do.

So I wasn't incredibly happy to be awake before dawn and heading out to the refuge. I left Little Rock around 5:30 am with my friend John, and in the darkness we managed to find Matt in Conway and brought him along too. The sun began to rise in the sky to the east, as we made our way towards Dardanelle. We got there just after sunrise, and drove through the refuge looking for the birds. There were numerous deer hanging out alongside the road. I was surprised that we didn't see many other people out there, since this is probably the optimal time to make a visit to the refuge.

We finally drove by the field that is home to thousands of snow geese. Mount Nebo loomed in the distance, as we approached the field that was covered with so many birds. Luckily, these birds were in much better shape than their winged friends that met an unfortunate end in Beebee on New Year's Eve.

It was a cold morning, the temperature was below freezing. The snow geese were probably still getting warmed up, so to speak, and it took awhile for them to start flying around.


But soon, they all took off at once. The noise was incredible. Their honking cries, combined with the rushed beating of wings, was amazing. They took off, soaring high above us in circles (I was amazed to not get hit by any sort of bird droppings during this). The flew around, and eventually moved over to another field and settled down again.

We cruised through the refuge, on the lookout for any type of bird. We managed to spot a bald eagle, resting on a tree just off of the side of the road. The eagle flew off, annoyed I'm sure, before I could swing the camera around to get a shot of it.

After that we took the scenic way home, stopping by Petit Jean State Park. At an overlook, we spotted this ugly buzzard. He (or she?) was perched on this bit of rock, with the Cedar Creek valley spread out below. He didn't seem to mind a few pictures being taken...

Here is a bonus picture, taken that afternoon while trying to kill some time. We headed south from Conway, and paid a visit to the St. Boniface Catholic Church. The church is located about 20 miles south of Conway, and it is a great old building. This was taken from the cemetery next to the church. I usually don't like taking pictures in cemeteries (it's creepy), so I hope I didn't anger any spirits out there...

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