So Long to the Chimney Swifts

Our neighborhood Chimney Swifts have pretty much headed south and will be missed until they come again in the spring. This reminds me of a some birds that Casey and I ran into at a location we camped at in Arkansas this spring. They were using a secluded and dark hallway that lead to bathrooms we used for their overnight roosting. This was the first time I have been so close to perched Chimney Swifts so I had to take a few pics.

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)

Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye)

The red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) was definitely one of the plants of the year for me. With so many trips to southeastern Missouri (this buckeye is primarily natively found in the Mississippi Lowlands Division of Missouri) and Arkansas, I and my friends came across this plant in bloom many times. This particular little stand was found at Arkansas Oak Natural Area in Nevada County, AR. The etymology of the Latin name: Aesculus refers to the horsechestnut and pavia is named for Peter Paaw, an early 17th century Dutch botanist. This plant can be grown at least as far north as the St. Louis area but apparently needs high quality rich soil to thrive.

A stand of red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) growing in a pine forest-savannah setting at Arkansas Oak Natural Area.

Baptisia sphaerocarpa (Yellow Wild Indigo)

This nice patch of Baptisia sphaerocarpa was found back in May of 2021 at Rick Evans Grandview Prairie WMA in Hempstead Co., AR. Although this species is found in a few of our southwestern prairies, most consider these to be introductions and not a native plant of Missouri.

Baptisia sphaerocarpa (Yellow Wild Indigo)

The Last of the Ladies Tresses

This year I was able to find and photograph the last two of the Spiranthes (ladies tresses) orchids that can be expected to be found in Missouri.

First up is a plant that Casey and I found in Nevada County, Arkansas on May 9th. To my knowledge, S. praecox (grass-leaved ladies tresses) is found in only one location in the Show Me State. However, after checking for it on a few occasions, it looks as though the plant(s) did not bloom this year. Hopefully this population is still there and will bloom in a future year. The couple of blooming spikes Casey and I found in Arkansas were very striking, with deep green venation on the labellum.

Spiranthes praecox, grass-leaved ladies tresses

It is interesting to me that the final two Spiranthes orchids I had to add to my list are the largest two species by far. While S. praecox can reach heights of up to 75 cm, S. vernalis (spring ladies tresses) has been recorded at a meter in height! This species is distributed throughout the state, but is considered locally rare. This plant was found at Otter Slough C.A.

Spiranthes vernalis, spring ladies tresses

Blanchard Springs

Casey introduced me to this location early in the spring. This is Blanchard Springs in Stone County, Arkansas. With an average daily flow rate of ~10 millon gallons per day, it doesn’t fall near the top ten of the fantastic and popular springs found in southern Missouri. However, this amount of water finding its way through a limestone rock face and plunging ten feet or more makes this a spectacular spring indeed!

Blanchard springs is a fun and easy spring to visit in north-central Arkansas.

Mississippi Kites in the Arkansas

It is always nice finding your targets on a big photography trip but the icing on the cake is finding the unexpected. That is what happened here when Casey and spent some time at Moro Bay State Park in southern Arkansas. When speaking to a very friendly park ranger, he let us on to where a pair of these birds setup territory and were virtually oblivious to humans. These birds completely ignored us as they flew to and from their favorite perches, often flying mere feet over our heads. We watched the male handoff their insect prey a number of times and even witnessed a copulation, but those photos were ruined by branches.