Monthly Archives: June 2012

June 25th, 2012 – The Great Blue Heron

If Beaver Lake has a lake bird, it has to be the Great Blue Heron. While Great Blue Herons are not uncommon anywhere, it seems that on Beaver Lake, every cove and isolated shoreline has its own Great Blue. I was on the lake both Saturday and Sunday this weekend in the War Eagle area. On Saturday during a two-hour trip on War Eagle Creek, there were at least four Great Blues. Sunday morning, Sharon and I were out on the White River arm starting from the War Eagle recreation area. During our 1 ½ hour trip, we saw five different Great Blues.

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron, the largest of the North American Herons, can stand up to 4 1/2 feet tall.

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias) is a stately bird. According to Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, the Great Blue is the largest of the North American herons. The heron can stand as much as 4½ feet tall and has a wingspan of 6 feet. They can weigh as much as 7½ pounds. The backs of the Great Blues are steely blue gray and their bellies are fine white feathers. They have some rusty reddish spots on their undersides. They also have a long yellow bill. The most striking feature is their long flexible necks and long skinny legs. I guess I relate well to the long skinny legs.

According to John James Audubon (courtesy of the Audubon Society’s website), the Great Blue is a solitary individual except during breeding season. They fish alone and roost in trees by themselves at night. They may at times also fish at night. During breeding season, the Great Blues gather into groups. They build nests of thin sticks in large trees with multiple nests to a single tree. These communities of nests are referred to as heronries. If you paddle your canoe or kayak way up into the headwaters of Beaver along the War Eagle arm, you may spot such a heronry. I have not counted the nests, but they are numerous.

Interestingly, Audubon also comments in his journal about the taste of Great Blue Heron. Young birds, he said, were tolerable eating. But old birds were not to Audubon’s taste. He preferred Crow or young Eagle to old Great Blue Heron. Audubon didn’t leave us any recipes and besides, Great Blue Herons are now protected by the migratory species act.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

A Great Blue Heron in flight inches from the water’s surface.

Great Blue Herons eat mostly fish. If you have patience and you are really well hidden, you can watch them fish. They either stand still in water or move ever so slowly, wading through shallow water. When a fish is foolish enough to get with in a couple feet, the long flexible neck snaps straight out and the fish is stabbed with the Heron’s long bill. Audubon says that occasionally the fish is not instantly killed when stabbed by the bill so the Heron beats the fish to death on a handy rock. Audubon also says that Herons include small mammals and insects in their diet as well.

Great Blue Herons apparently don’t like humans much. It is really hard to get close enough for a good picture. As soon as they notice you approaching, they take off to another fishing hole. They always leave with a comment or two. It is something like, “Fraaaaaaaack.” I assume that means “go find something else to bother you big galoot.”

At any rate, the heron flies away some distance and resumes fishing.

Board Meeting-June 21, 2012

Beaver Water District’s Board of Directors will meet at noon on Thursday, June 21, 2012, at 301 N. Primrose Road, Lowell, AR 72745.

Tentative Agenda

  1. Meeting Call to Order
  2. Approval of minutes of previous regular meeting
  3. Presentation – Chlorine Dioxide Facility – Construction Update
  4. Recommendation – Chlorine Dioxide Project – Construction Contract Change Order
  5. Report – Stage II Disinfectant Byproducts Compliance Waiver Request
  6. Presentation – Report on 2013 Salary Structure Analysis
  7. Other Business
  • May Water Production
  • June 27 – Open House – Water Education Center

Open House for Water Education Center on June 27th

Beaver Water District will host an Open House for its Water Education Center from noon to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27th, at 301 N. Primrose Road in Lowell, Ark. Individual and group tours will be offered, light refreshments (hot dogs and chips) will be served, and a short program will take place at 12:30 p.m. In March of 2011, Beaver Water District was awarded a three-year grant of $229,250 from The Walton Family Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to enhance and accelerate the District’s existing efforts toward the creation of a comprehensive Water Education Center within its Administration Center. The Water Education Center’s instructional opportunities go hand-in-hand with the District’s K-12 programs for the schools. 

The Water Education Center is designed to educate both children and adults about the value of drinking water and stewardship of the watershed as a natural resource. The Center includes:

  • Scale Drinking Water Plant Model
  • Interactive Kiosks exploring History of Water, Water Treatment and Watersheds
  • Wall Size Watershed Map
  • 50 Person Education, Presentation & Meeting Room

The building and grounds also offer many opportunities for education about drinking water treatment and watershed awareness including:

  • LID (Low Impact Development) Walking Tour
  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Building information

The Center is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Beaver Water District supplies drinking water more than 300,000 people and industries in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and surrounding areas, or one in 10 Arkansans. These cities then resell the water to surrounding towns and communities. The District’s mission is to serve our customers’ needs by providing high quality drinking water that meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements and is economically priced consistent with our quality standards.

May 28th, 2012 – Going It Alone

Massive Bluffs

Massive Bluffs

To the northeast of the highway 412 bridge over Beaver Lake east of Springdale, there are three large bluffs. I have been thinking about those bluffs since early April.  Today they are my destination. I arrived at the Dr. Don Roufa access to Beaver at 7:30 a.m.  I unloaded my canoe and looked around a bit.

The sign at the access says that this used to be the site of Head’s Crossing. In the late 1800s, Mr. Head operated a ferry across the White River at this point. For 20 cents, a two-horse wagon could cross the river. A roundtrip was 35 cents. A footman could cross for a nickel. According to the sign, this was the shortest route to Hindsville and Huntsville by 3 miles. It is easy to see why this site was chosen. The valley is fairly narrow and both sides of the river have low hills without bluffs. Wagons could easily get down to the riverbank and then climb back out on the other side. The Head School was also in this area. The school was later renamed the Jaybird school because the guy who built it was named Jay.

I never know what to expect when I head out to the lake. But something interesting always happens. Today, Sharon and I once again had conflicting schedules so I was on my own. When I pulled into the parking lot at the Roufa access, my truck was the only one there. I noted that, but it was early so it likely wasn’t that unusual. By 7:35, I was on my way.

Paddling alone is not recommended in anyone’s guidebook. Clearly, if there is an accident, you are on your own for help. But going it alone also has its advantages. For one, you can go at your pace, either fast or slow, and you can go wherever you want. Plus, if you are late getting back, you can usually get forgiven. I frequently find myself paddling alone.

The wind was calm and predicted to build to five miles per hour from the Northeast. That would be perfect. I could paddle in calm water out to the bluffs, then ride the breeze back to the landing. At least that was the theory. I headed out to the bluffs. Thirty-two minutes later I arrived. It was a pleasant paddle, calm water and not even any boat wakes.

The most notable thing about these bluffs is how massive they are. The U.S. Geological Survey topographic map shows them to be a little over one hundred feet high and a couple hundred yards long. They are not polished limestone like you see on the Buffalo River but more angular and jagged. The color is gray and sandy brown.

At the base of the bluffs is a lush mixed hardwood forest. I was pleased to see that the wildflower show was not yet over. But it was smaller and more spread out.  There were several patches of Dayflower, Commelina erecta, in the Spiderwort family.

As I paddled on to the north along the bluffs, I discovered there were actually four bluffs. One was out of site from the highway. With side trips into a couple of coves, it took about an hour and a half to explore the set. It was nice to be in the shade of the bluff since the sun was somewhat intense. The whole hour and a half, not another boat passed.

Mother Wood Duck and Six Ducklings

Mother Wood Duck and Six Ducklings

Fledgling Cliff Swallows

Fledgling Cliff Swallows

The star of the morning was the birdlife. I am by no means an expert on birds. There were dozens of calls that I was unfamiliar with and many birds I could not identify. At the back of a cove, there was a Wood Duck and six ducklings swimming along the rocks. I tried to get close for a photo, but quickly I learned that Wood Ducks swim faster than old coots paddle. But she couldn’t outrun the telephoto. Other birds that I could identify either by sight or by call included:

Chickadee Cardinal Phoebe Indigo Bunting White Throated Sparrow Yellow Breasted Chat Yellow Billed Cuckoo Swallows Geese Redwing Blackbird Eastern Bluebird Killdeer Meadowlark Blackbird Baltimore Orioles Blue Jay Mockingbird

It is 9:35 when I reach the end of the fourth bluff. The promised northeast breeze hasn’t arrived yet. But the lake is calm and no one is around. So I keep going north.  Another advantage of going alone is that you can go as far as you like. At the mouth of Friendship Creek I start heading back to the Roufa landing along the western shoreline. The promised northeast wind is now appearing, but it is coming from the southwest instead, straight from the Roufa landing to me. So goes my theory.

Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake

The western shore is mostly low hills, much of it still farmed. It is a pleasant paddle, if not as spectacular as the eastern shoreline with the bluffs. The wind is a minor annoyance. As far as I can see, there are no boats. At 11:18, I arrive back at the landing. I have been on the water three hours and 38 minutes without seeing a soul. Now that is a special day on Beaver Lake.