Chasing the Brown Booby

by Dave Dolan on August 19, 2012

I had a couple of days off this week and was seriously considering driving all the way to west Texas to get some of my western birds that I haven’t gotten yet this year. Unfortunately, it is too late to really get much, so it would be a waste of time. On Monday, Steve texted me to say that he would have to cancel our trip to the coast.  Just a couple of minutes earlier,  I had found out that there was a Brown Booby in Arkansas on the eBird RBA. I told Steve that I was considering it and he told me to look at for the Arkansas listserve because the information about how to find the bird was there. The drive to Arkansas would be 400+ miles which turns out to be about 8 hours of driving. I asked Steve if he thought the bird was worth chasing that far and he said that he had considered it himself, but he had plans so I would have to make the trip by myself. I decided to go for it and packed for a quick trip in the morning.

I was supposed to leave at 5:00, but was too tired and hit the snooze until 5:40, took a shower and was on the road at 6:00. I had removed the old top on my Jeep and replaced it with a Bikini soft top and a wind screen, so hopefully the trip would be cooler since the cab had been cut in half sizewise. It was cooler, but also a LOT louder. Fortunately, the speakers were loud enough to be heard above the wind and flapping of the top. I got to Benton Arkansas at around 2:00 pm and called the number on the post, thinking I was talking to the property owner of the original property where the bird had been found. Instead, I was talking to the neighbor Chris, who was picking up the birders and taking them to the bird on his boat. Neither of the contacts are birders, and my experience with them was a real example of southern hospitality. I will post about that later.

Chris was getting gas for his boat and said he would meet me at the gas station which was on the way to his house. He then had me follow him to his house where we took his boat to the dock where the bird had taken residence. He was still there!

Brown Booby

This bird has been returning to the dock to listen to the country music being played by the owner, Scott, an Aggie who has actually put his house on the market to move back to Texas. Anyways, the Booby is not effected by people. He flies around and returns to roost despite the dock being populated by birders. He was very calm when I saw him and didn’t even pay attention to us while I was there. I have a feeling he may stick around for a while.

Brown Booby

While looking at the bird, Chris wanted to show me the cool woodpecker that was in the tree next door.


After explaining that this was a Belted Kingfisher, I decided that I was going to have to send him a field guide. I typically have an extra field guide on hand and will give it to a non-birder who helps birders despite their lack of passion for birding. I think that it helps to give positive feedback to these people about the people in birding, and maybe even draw them into birding, once they see that the birds out there are more than just the House Sparrows, Blue Jays and Cardinals that they see everyday.

Brown Booby

While looking at the Booby, Chris got a call from a lady who had been out to see the bird last week and was asking for another ride so that she could show the bird to her mother and son. When asked Chris said that he has probably chauffeured 100 people on the lake to see it. While talking about my trip he found out that I was also looking for a Mute Swan and he said that it had just shown up on the lake this year and that he would be glad to help me find it. We travelled around the lake and didn’t find it, but we did find a Spotted Sandpiper.

While out looking for the swan, Donna called and said that she was at the dock with her family. We went to pick them up and returned straight to the dock to find the Booby still there.

While looking at the bird, Chris got a call from the homeowner, Scott, who said that the news had actually given out his address over the air and he was on his way home. He was also a nice guy and we talked for a while. During the conversation, it was mentioned where to look for the swan, and we decided to go looking for it again. Sure enough, it had been around the corner last time we looked and now it was out and on the shore.

Mute Swan

On the way back to the dock, Donna asked if I wanted to see the male Rufous Hummingbird that had been camped out in her yard for the past 3 summers. Of course I did! Who wouldn’t want to see one of these beauties in full color? I followed her and her family to their home and we got out and saw the hummer fly off just as we got out of the cars. We spent the better part of an hour trying to get good pictures, but he was not coming in too close with somebody new in the yard.

Rufous Hummingbird

Another shot of the Rufous Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummingbird

While working the hummingbird, a White-breasted Nuthatch flew in to the feeders a couple of times. Another favorite of mine (I have a lot of favorites).

White-breasted Nuthatch

After crossing the street to look for other birds in the lake behind the church, we saw some Northern Parulas and heard some Fish Crows, both cool birds. I then decided to head to the lakes just south of town to see what I could find. Not much except for a really nice looking Yellow-throated Warbler male. I had put my camera up because it was getting dark and had to run back to get it to, at least, try to get a picture of one of the nicer looking warblers out there. I was too late and will try to remember to carry the camera everywhere. I shot a picture of the sunset, as this is in fact called Sunset Lake. Afterwards about 80 Canada Geese flew in after it was dark and called to others flying in as I was leaving.

Sunset at Sunset Lake

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  • Mitchell Pruitt

    Very nice post Dave…living in Arkansas I didn’t have to drive 8 hours, but I was among one of the furthest away (in Arkansas). I know what you mean about travel being worth a big deal lifer!

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