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Birding at Rowan Oak and Bailey's Woods Trails

posted by nk rout

Nishant Rout and Bronson Lang

May 3, 2016

On a cool Tuesday morning around 8:00, Dr. Hoeksema's ornithology class were prepared to depart to Sardis reservoir to do some birdwatching; however, not one, but both vans intended to take the class to the location did not start! Therefore, we had a change of plans and decided to all walk to nearby Bailey's Woods Trails off of the University Museum towards Rowan Oak and back. 

The air was filled with bird calls and sounds. As we entered Bailey's Woods, we met up with JR Rigby. We heard two CANADA GEESE flying up beyond the trees. We also got a close look at a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER climbing a utility pole. We spotted a few BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS, CAROLINA WRENS, BLUE JAYS, TUFTED TITMOUSES, as well as RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS along the trail. We heard the numerous and colorful calls of vireos throughout the entire trek, even spotting some nimble WHITE-EYED, RED-EYED, and YELLOW-THROATED VIREOS.

When we got to Rowan Oak, we spotted two RED-TAILED HAWKS flying high up in the distance, seemingly engaged in a mating ritual. we also got a close look at a BROAD-WINGED HAWK that was being harassed by 2 BLUEJAYS. Dr. Hoeksema mentioned that the behavior from the bluejays towards the hawk was to warn others of its presence and to foil its element of surprise. A flock of CEDAR WAXWINGS in their usual area around the grounds of Rowan Oak were also spotted, along with a few BROWN THRASHERS. 

Overall, despite the mishaps that occurred before the trip, we all had a blast and arguably saw and heard more birds than we had in any of our previous birding trips. 

Here is the eBird checklist for the trip:

Birds, Fungi, and Quadrupeds Galore at Wall Doxey State Park

posted May 3, 2016, 8:07 PM by Braxton Dupuy   [ updated May 3, 2016, 8:12 PM ]

On May 1st just after lunch, my friends and I decided to venture out to the realms of Wall Doxey State Park with hopes that the dissipating rain clouds and the bluing of the sky would make for a memorable hike around the lake--and that, it was. From the start of the hike around the lake, the birds were noticeably more active than in the past couple of days. Common birds were immediately heard by their calls, including TUFTED TITMOUSE, NORTHERN PARULA, RED-EYED VIREO, NORTHERN CARDINAL, and BLUE-GREY GNATCATCHERS. Just around the lake's edge when walking around clockwise from the parking lot, one could distinctly hear a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, which is the same location where I had first seen it rather than just hear its call. As we made our way into the wooded area, we found an assortment of fungi that we could not identify (but took pictures to ask Dr. H later), salamanders under logs, frogs and toads hopping from puddles, a mothering beaver, and even a pair of turtles in the bout of a courtship ritual. After all of these great finds, we continued onward with our birding, where we came across a couple SUMMER TANAGERS, a hammering RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, followed by its family member--PILEATED WOODPECKER. It was a great day enjoying nature's pleasantry before the busy weeks ahead near the end of school. From this trip, I do want to emphasize to everybody to heed the dangers of ticks because I was bitten by a tick that transmitted the symptomatic rash of a Lyme-like disease. 

Other species seen:

Photos of the trip can be seen with the following links:

Birding with Sibley!

posted May 3, 2016, 9:10 AM by Adam Smith   [ updated May 3, 2016, 9:11 AM ]

Meghan McNeill & Adam Smith

April 30, 2016

Early Saturday morning a few of us from Dr. Hoeksema’s ornithology course had the pleasure of birding with David Sibley. Mr. Sibley is one of the most prestigious ornithologists as well as artists in the United States. He is known for his phenomenal birding field guides. My fellow classmate Adam Smith and myself were in the 8:30 group to bird at Rowan Oak for an hour. Fortunately, we were able to avoid  the rain for the majority of the trip, but the birding was slow due to the inclement weather making way. 

    Although the birding was slow, Mr. Sibley’s plethora of knowledge was exciting. He was informative on bird psychology, and educated us on some new birding facts that we had never heard before. For example, he was able to begin to form a possible explanation for the “confused” AMERICAN ROBIN who resides in the Rowan Oak area that has a half AMERICAN ROBIN-half- CAROLINA WREN song. Mr. Sibley said it is possible the Robin had learned the call during its juvenile years in the nest, if the nest was nearby a CAROLINA WREN’s nest.

It was a pleasure to bird with fellow Mississippi birders from around the state in our home stomping grounds. Other notable birds we observed were SUMMER TANAGERS, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS, and many CEDAR WAXWINGS. If you would like to view our list of birds identified by sight and sound, you can follow our link to the eBird checklist.

April 30, 2016 Birding Trip

posted May 2, 2016, 12:15 PM by Meghan McNeill

Saturday morning, April 30, I went out to the Clear Creek Recreation area at Sardis to go on a short birding expedition. To my surprise I immediately observed five WILLET's congregated on the shore at the boat launch. WILLET's are not common in Lafayette county, but can be observed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. To be honest with you, I was unable to identify the exact species and had to be assisted by bird expert, Dr. Hoeksema, my Ornithology professor. Luckily, I was able to snap a few (poor quality) pictures of the shorebirds before they flew off. 

Other than the shorebirds, I also observed PURPLE MARTIN's in the provided bird houses at the boat launch, and of course some CHIMNEY SWIFTs gliding overhead. While driving, I observed a few other bird species, which among those already mentioned, you can check out on my eBird link provided below.

Birding at Rowan Oak on April 28

posted Apr 29, 2016, 1:44 PM by Chyna-Rae Dearman

This morning Dr. Hoeksema escorted fifteen members of our Ornithology class to Rowan Oak for a birding walk. We arrived at Rowan Oak around 7:45 am and departed around 10:15 am. It was a sunny pleasant morning. We began in the west lawn which was brimming with birds. Here we saw several ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS and SUMMER TANAGERS. We were lucky enough to have a BROAD-WINGED HAWK fly in and perch in a leafless tree nearby, surveying the area and doing some preening. She hung around for quite a while so we were able to get an excellent look. 

We also got a good look and listen at a few GRAY CATBIRDS hanging about. As we ventured around the property, we noticed a baby rabbit sitting in the leaves under a tree only about five feet away from us. She seemed very calm and allowed us to get close for a good look at her adorableness. Soon after, we came across a turtle on the lawn who was not very excited about being picked up and examined. She zoomed away at top turtle speed as soon as we set her down. We continued our walk into Bailey’s Woods to search for warblers which were fairly plentiful. There were many birds moving about high up in the canopies so it was a little tricky to get a bird in the binoculars. We had a decent look at a few AMERICAN REDSTARTS and further into the woods we heard and got glimpses of BLACK & WHITE WARBLER, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, TENNESSEE WARBLER, and CHESNUT-SIDED WARBLER. We also noticed two COOPER’S HAWKS some distance away. As we were crossing the bridge by the creek, we got a great look at a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO hopping around in a tree. Overall, it was a successful trip with great looks at grosbeaks, tanagers, catbirds, and a cuckoo and a truly incredible look at the broad-winged hawk.

Here is the e-Bird checklist for this morning:

Birding at Rowan Oak

posted Apr 28, 2016, 4:42 PM by Michael Martella   [ updated Apr 28, 2016, 4:55 PM ]

    Once a week our ornithology class visits Rowan Oak and Bailey’s Woods, a small patch of forest in the center of Oxford.  On Thursday, April 21, the weather was dreary, but we all loaded up into the vans for the short drive across town, hoping that the blanket of clouds might dissipate rather than darken.  When we arrived at Rowan Oak, the class stood around the vans listening for what birds were most immediately identifiable.  There were RED-EYED VIREOS and BLUE-GRAY GNATCHERS, some CHIMNEY SWIFTS twittering overhead, NORTHERN CARDINALS and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS.

    As everyone keyed in on the most common calls, we set out walking around the property.  The lighting was poor, which made it challenging to identify birds in the tops of trees, against the backdrop of white sky.  So we practiced listening and scanning for birds against the green of dense foliage along the forest edge and in its understory.  One of our classmates was awarded a prize for identifying a species that the class had not before seen: an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER perched among a messy tangle of vines.

    After having all gotten a look at a male SCARLET TANAGER, a WOOD THRUSH, and a small group of TENNESSEE WARBLERS, we began our walk into the woods from the open lawn.  Pausing atop a gully’s edge we listened for a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, but we never sited the bird.  However, in searching for the warbler, we came very near a male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK foraging in a slender tree. 

    The highlight of the trip, however, was on the latter portion of the trail.   From our place on top of a high ridge, the class got a great (though brief) look at a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER.  Then, it was mostly more of the same species we see and hear each week: the CAROLINA WREN, the LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, etc. 

    As it began raining, we started back toward the trail’s entrance, but not before Dr. H pointed out a large orange fungus twenty feet from the path.  PALE CHICKEN OF THE WOODS is what he called it.  As he picked a handful, he told the class that this was one of the several local species of edible fungi, best served fried.  Several of us took his word and picked our own pocketfuls to try. 

    The walk back was far less eventful than the walk in, likely because we were all eager to get out of the rain.  Once we reached the trail’s entrance, Dr. H suggested breakfast at Bottletree Bakery, so we ended our morning of birding with pastries and hot coffee.

Here is the eBird checklist for that morning:

Birding at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge

posted Apr 26, 2016, 3:40 PM by nk rout

John Mathis and Nishant Rout


Dr. Hoeksema’s Ornithology Class left Oxford at 7:40 a.m. on a beautiful day on April 26, 2016 to Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge in the Mississippi Delta. It is located just outside of Crowder, MS. The group consisted of 15 undergraduate students, 1 graduate student, and 2 college professors. We arrived at the refuge at about 8:25 in the morning. The skies were mostly cloudy with a 7 mile per hour wind and a temperature of 71F.

            We started by walking out to a lookout over a few lakes. When crossing the bridge, we got a good look at a bullfrog. About halfway up the walkway to the lookout, we found a ribbon snake. The photo above is of Cullen holding the snake with his usual happy face when he gets to hold a reptile. When we reached the top of the lookout, we saw lots of AMERICAN COOTS, a few groups of BLUE-WINGED TEAL, tons of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS, many GREAT BLUE HERONS, and a few GREAT EGRETS.

            After coming down from the lookout, we got in the vans and moved to some other small  ponds. There were lots of KILLDEER and LEAST SANDPIPERS. There were also a few BLUE-WINGED TEALS, a single NORTHERN SHOVELER, and a lot more COOTS. The next photo is of the group checking out a group of least sandpipers at about 50 yards. At the next pond, we got a few good looks at a few WILSON'S SNIPES flying. It was hard to see them on the ground, but when they flew, it was easy to tell they were Snipes by their impressively long bills. We also got a very good, up-close look at a few SOLITARY SANDPIPERS. We all could see all the characteristics very well such as the bright white eye ring and the spots on the back. We also had a couple LESSER YELLOWLEGS at that spot and 1 EASTERN MEADOWLARK.

We then continued down the bank in the vans to see what was at the back of the property. On the way, we saw a cotton mouth right on the bank of one of the ponds. Cullen, of course, leaped out of the van in an attempt to catch him on a stick but was not fast enough. At the very back we saw a few INDIGO BUNTINGS and heard a PROTHONOTARY WARBLER. There was also 2 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS. On the way out, we had 3 white-tail deer running right along the woodline with the vans.

Unfortunately, we had to leave pretty quickly to get back to Oxford on time. We were able to spend about an hour and 15 minutes at the refuge. However, we were able to get a lot of good looks at birds that many people in the class had never seen before such as Wilson’s snipe and Eastern meadowlark. Also, it was good to be able to get so close to the solitary sandpipers and observe their distinct characteristics.

eBird checklists:


Birding at Clear Springs Nature Trail and Lower Lake Sardis

posted Apr 21, 2016, 12:38 PM by Adam Smith   [ updated Apr 21, 2016, 12:41 PM ]

April 12, 2016

What a great day for birding!

We departed this morning around 7:30 on two vans, Sardis bound! After turning off of hwy 6 onto the road which would eventually turn into the dam, we found ourselves stopping briefly to exchange walkie talkies in order to alert the other half of the group if anything was spotted- that's when I knew it was getting serious!


We were then greeted by a kind and bright old gentleman who stopped to check on us. He said his grandson was also with the biology department today and wanted to see if he were with us and if everything was okay; Dr. Hoeksema reassured the man, and we were on our way. This interesting interaction led to Dr. H explaining the phenomenon I've now come to call “Lemme show you these eagles!” In which a birder, while birding, comes in contact with a non-professional (fisherman, hunter, someone just enjoying the outdoors) who knows of a MAGICAL eagles nest that they just absolutely must show the birder, while also teaching said birder anything they may not already know about Eagles. Dr. H was sure we were about to experience this phenomenon, alas we escaped before learning of any Eagles nearby.


As we came to cross the dam, we began to get a great look at many different species (  We saw tons of American White Pelican, a first of the year for me, as well as two juvenile bald eagles! We rounded down the dam collecting a few more species before heading over to the trail walk parking lot.

Upon parking and exiting the vans at Clear Springs Nature Trail we heard a plethora of birds singing and calling, almost an overwhelming event, but after tuning our ears we started picking out a few targets: Louisiana water thrush, both downy and red headed woodpecker, as well as a few warblers.  After collecting ourselves and planning the walk for a moment, we were off!

The boardwalk led us past the initial barrier of trees into a clear opening of swamp that allowed us to see quite a few species. Some new birds identified were the Indigo Bunting, Hooded Warbler, and the White-eyed Vireo. The whole area of Boardwalk that encompassed this beautifulScreen Shot 2016-04-21 at 2.13.10 PM.png swampy lagoon could not have provided a better habitat for a diversity of birds. The red headed woodpeckers specifically loved the tall bare Cyprus trees, and there was no shortage of warblers to be seen or heard! It was a beautiful sight and provided the class ample opportunities to practice identifying species. A complete list can be seen here:

      IMG_1446.JPG  After our walk through the nature trail, which was across the street from the boardwalk and presented several great looks at similar species, we headed back to the vans and made our way to the lower lake area of Sardis. A small island of sand near the center of the lower lake provided an area for several species we were able to identify including Forster’s Terns, Ring-billed Gulls, American White Pelicans, and one Cattle Egret! These species and others that were identified can be found here:

Birding at Rowan Oak and Planting Native Species

posted Apr 15, 2016, 2:54 PM by Thomas Moorman   [ updated Apr 15, 2016, 2:55 PM ]

Cynthia Harris & Thomas Moorman

4/14/16, from 7:40AM until 10:25AM

Rowan Oak & Sparky's Garden

This past Thursday, April 14th, Dr. Hoeksema’s Ornithology class took a 1-hour trip out to Rowan Oak. We were strategic in our birding on this morning because we were birding on a strict time span. We began birding at 7:45 am with a cloudy overcast and a slight darkness while in woody areas. The temperature was 54 degrees F with a muggy feel. We began our journey in a familiar area where we knew birds were active on our first birding trip. Our class took the path going in front of Faulkner’s house. We noticed that since it had not rained yet, not too many migrate birds fled to the area. The birds we saw and heard were mainly common birds of the area. We continued our journey around the perimeter of the house and heard the calls of the American Robin and Tufted Titmouse. As ventured toward the backyard into an open fielded area, we heard a variety of common birds of the area such as a White-eyed Vireo and Blue Jay. We ended our journey at 8:45 am at the beginning of the trail heading into the woods. In here we were able to hear calls from birds such as the Northern Cardinal and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Blow is a list of the total bird species we found while at Rowan Oak:


Sharp-shinned Hawk                                                            Yellow-rumped Warbler

Chimney Swift                                                                        White-throated Sparrow

Ruby-throated Hummingbird                                              Summer Tanager

Red-bellied Woodpecker                                                     Northern Cardinal    

White-eyed Vireo                                                                  Indigo Bunting

Red-eyed Vireo                                                                      Brown-headed Cowbird

Blue Jay                                                                                  House Finch

Tufted Titmouse                                                                Ruby-crowned Kinglet 

Carolina Wren                                                                    Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                         

American Robin                                                                    Cedar Waxwing

Louisiana Waterthrush                                                            Northern Parula   

Above: Our group looking at a Summer Tanager at Rowan Oak.

After a morning of mostly identification by ear at Rowan Oak, we loaded up into the vans and drove over to what we now like to call Sparky’s Garden. Sparky’s Garden, which we planted on this day, is a hill crest now planted with native species, such as dogwoods (Cornus sp.), Viburnum, Oak-leaf Hydrangea, and Pawpaws amongst others. The hope is to show that native plants can be beautiful when used in landscaping, as to encourage more people to consider using them, instead of foreign ornamentals which are largely ignored by insects, and thus, down the line, don't contribute to the well-being of our native species. Most of our class began the planting process, while myself (being Thomas Moorman) and a few others broke off from the main group for about 15 minutes to create the location’s first bird list. Across the skinny road from where we were planting is a lovely, dense, older growth forest area, from which we heard a number of different species, including a White-eyed Viero, some Blue Jays, and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. In the immediate vicinity of the garden we found the expected species: White-throated Sparrows, American Robins, a Carolina Chickadee, and a pair of Tufted Titmice amongst others. After we created the list, my team joined the planters. I planted some native hydrangeas, and we finished by mulching with pine straw. Here’s to the health of those plants, that they might flourish and grow beautiful to the common observer, that they might usher in a new age of native plant landscaping here in Oxford, Mississippi. 

This is the full list of encountered species:

 Red-bellied Woodpecker            Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

White-eyed Viero                        American Robin

Blue Jay                                    Northern Parula

American Crow                        White-throated Sparrow

Carolina Chickadee                Northern Cardinal

Tufted Titmouse                    Brown-headed Cowbird

Carolina Wren

Also, we found a Fowler's Toad. It was very cute.

Onward to the next adventure,
Cynthia Harris and Thomas Moorman

Birds at Rowan Oak and Bailey's Woods

posted Apr 9, 2016, 1:30 PM by Braxton Dupuy   [ updated Apr 12, 2016, 5:41 PM ]

On Thursday, April 7, our ornithology class experienced the first of many birding expeditions to come. Our grand commencement began at the grounds of Rowan Oak and Bailey’s Woods. It was a bright yet chilly day, succeeding a day with a significant amount of rainfall. Birding began at 7:45 am and continued for another two and a half hours. From start to end, there were chirps, fluttering, and the incessant Brown Thrasher. While the earlier start to the day made for tired bodies and droopy eyes, the twenty-nine specimens roused our spirits for what will hopefully be a memorable end to this avian-filled semester. 






























Photo of the trip can be seen with the hyperlink.

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