Arkabutla and Sardis Lakes, MS, 6/5 and 6/6/2010

I was offered the opportunity to participate in the “Legacy Cerulean Warbler Project” with the Kalamazoo Nature Center and the Army Corps of Engineers.  The project involves doing site surveys of several COE managed areas looking specifically for Cerulean Warblers.  Given the time of year, they would presumably be nesting if found.

I agreed to do five surveys of five sites in northwestern Mississippi – Arkabutla Lake, Sardis Lake, Askew WMA, Enid Lake, and Grenada Lake.  The four lakes all fall along I-55 so getting to them is pretty straight forward if a long drive from Little Rock.  The wildlife management area is closer to the Mississippi River that I-55 but still not hard to get to.

Time was of the essence, I had five sites and three open weekends before the deadline. My original plan had been to leave Friday evening 6/4 and stay two nights to do the first two lakes on the list but decided to leave early Saturday at 4 instead and stay over only one night.

I arrived at Arkabutla Lake at 7 AM.  This lake has a large COE area at the dam site on the west side with a small amount of COE area elsewhere.  My surveys are to be limited to COE areas.  I started at the southern end of the dam area and worked my way north on foot.  Long story short, I did find one Cerulean Warbler on the “Swinging Bridge Trail” at about 11 AM. Why its called that is anyone’s guess as the bridge is actually a boardwalk across a swamp and does not swing.  Later, at about 3 PM I heard what might have been another while driving but by the time I could park I could not find the bird.

I left just in time, an afternoon cloudburst drenched the area shortly afterward.

I went to Batesville, next to Sardis Lake, and got a hotel. After a shower, I went over to the lake for a quick check.

The next morning, I was able to get started at 6:30 and birded the lake’s dam area which had plenty of proper habitat. That took about three hours.  Sardis is way different than Arkabutla in that its long and skinny and has COE areas dotted all around it. So, I started around it.  I hoped to check as many as possible and I did but I soon realized that 5 miles in, 5 miles back, 3 miles over, and repeat over and over would add up quickly and I’d run out of time before covering just the west side of the lake.  So, I decided to pick just those areas that the COE thought enough of to place their brown signs for on the main highway.  I was able to check about 10 sites around the lake, driving and incredible 140 miles in, out, and over in the process.  Alas, no Cerulean Warbler were found at Sardis.

At the end of this long day, I headed home.

Next weekend, I intend to visit Askew WMA and the weekend after that wrap up with the remaining two lakes.

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