A E T N Logo P B S logo
Support the Programs You LoveDONATE NOW

Exploring Arkansas November 2010

Loading the player…

Arkansas Hot Air Balloon Championship, Bull Shoals White River State Park, Crystal Vista, Bird Island
Balloon pilots from across the state gather in Harrison once a year during the annual balloon festival to determine who's the best of the best in this high adventure sport. One of the finest fishing and boating destinations in the nation can be found at Bull Shoals Lake and the White River-not to mention camping, mountain biking, a butterfly garden and a wildflower meadow. A unique auto tour in the Ouachita National Forest near Mt. Ida leads to Crystal Vista itself, offering beautiful views and of course, crystals. At Bird Island in the middle of Lake Ouachita, boaters can enjoy a spectacular display of nature during late summer, as tens of thousands of purple martins converge before flying to South America.

TRANSCRIPT

EVERY SEPTEMBER, BALLOONISTS FROM ALL ACROSS THE STATE GATHER HERE IN HARRISON FOR THE ANNUAL HOT AIR BALLOON CHAMPIONSHIPS, AND ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS IS A HEIR AND HOUND RACE. THAT'S THE FIRST THING WE'LL SHOW YOU ON THIS WEEK'S SHOW. THEN WE'LL TAKE YOU TO BULL SHOALS WHITE RIVER STATE PARK NEAR MOUNTAIN HOME, AND THEN ON TO THE CRYSTAL VISTA AUTO TOUR IN THE WITH A CHEETAH NATIONAL FOR -- OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST. WE WILL WRAP IT UP BY TAKING YOU TO BIRD ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF OUACHITA. SO NOW, HOW ABOUT WE GO UP, UP, MIDDLE OF OUACHITA. SO NOW, HOW ABOUT WE GO UP, UP, AND AWAY. SEVERAL FLIGHT COMPETITIONS ARE HELD DURING THIS THREE-DAY EVENT THE SECOND WEEKEND IN SEPTEMBER. ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS IS THE HEIR AND HOUND RACE.  -- HARE AND HOUND RACE. 

THE HARE AND HOUND RACE IS WHERE ONE BALLOON TAKES OFF, AND HE IS THE RABBIT, THE HARE. AND AS SOON AS I INFLATE MY BALLOON AND IT COMES OFF THE GROUND, THAT MEANS ALL THE REST OF THE BALLOONS CAN START INFLATING. THAT GIVES ME A HEAD START. I AM GOING TO FLY OUT THERE 30 MINUTES OR SO AND THEN LAND AND PUT OUT AN X. AND THEY'RE ALL GOING TO TRY TO CHASE ME TO THAT X. THEY HAVE A LITTLE DOGI BONE TO THROW AT THE X WITH A NUMBER ON IT SO WE KNOW WHO WINS BY WHOEVER GETS THEIR DOGGIE BONE CLOSER TO THE X. THE WINDS CAN CHANGE, SHIFT, AND ALL KINDS OF THINGS CAN HAPPEN IN THAT PROCESS. SO IT'S A FUN RACE. WE'VE GOT LOTS OF SPONSORS HERE THAT WERE GIVING RIDES, ALL THAT KIND OF STUFF. IT'S GOING TO BE A REAL FUN AFTERNOON. 

THE ONLY WAY I CAN DESCRIBE IT TO PEOPLE IS WE ALL DREAMT LIKE WE WERE PETER PAN OR TINKLE BELL WHEN WE WERE KIDS, AND -- TINKER BELL WHEN WE WERE KIDS, AND THAT'S THE FEELING. YOU CAN SWOOP DOWN. THE FUN IS FLYING OVER, TALKING TO PEOPLE, SEE ON THE GROUNDS, THEY SAY WOW. IT'S JUST SEEING THE EXPRESSION ON PEOPLE'S FACES, AND TO ME, WATCHING KIDS. STILL THE MOST INTERESTING PART TO ME IS INFLATING IT, JUST A BIG OLD LIMP PIECE OF MATERIAL TAKES SHAPE, AND WATCHING KIDS' EXPRESSIONS, THAT'S WHAT'S TAKES SHAPE, AND WATCHING KIDS' EXPRESSIONS, THAT'S WHAT'S REALLY GREAT ABOUT IT. 

ALWAYS WANTED TO LEARN TO FLY A BALLOON, AND ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO, I HAD A LITTLE BIT OF FREE TIME AND WAS ABLE TO PURSUE IT, SO I FOUND AN INSTRUCTOR AND STARTED TAKING LESSONS. LATELY I'VE BEEN IN ARKANSAS NOW FOR ALMOST THREE YEARS, SO THAT'S WHERE I'VE DONE MOST OF MY FLYING IN THE LITTLE ROCK AREA, AND I JUST REALLY ENJOY IT. 

SO OF COURSE YOU ARE GOING TO BE TAKING OUR VIDEOGRAPHY UP TODAY, JEFFREY JAMES. I TAKE IT YOU HAVE SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR FIRST-TIMERS.  [LAUGHTER] 

WE'LL TREAT HIM WITH A GOOD FLIGHT WITH A SPECIAL CEREMONY AT THE END OF THE FLIGHT, SURE. 

YOU STILL TOAST WITH CHAMPAGNE AFTER A SUCCESSFUL FLIGHT? 

ABSOLUTELY. THIS IS A DRY COUNTY, SO I USUALLY USE SPARKLING GRAPE JUICE. IT'S ON ICE AS WE SPEAK. JUICE. IT'S ON ICE AS WE SPEAK. 

OKAY. 

IN NO TIME AT ALL, BEFORE HE KNEW IT, VIDEOGRAPHER JEFFREY JAMES WAS UP, UP, AND AWAY ON HIS HOT AIR BALLOON MAIDEN VOYAGE ABOVE THE OWE AWAY ON HIS HOT AIR BALLOON MAIDEN VOYAGE ABOVE THE OWE CZAR COUNTRYSIDE IN HARRISON. 

I CARRY THREE TANKS OF PROPANE, JUST THE SAME KIND OF PROPANE YOU WOULD USE IN YOUR BARBECUE GRILL AT HOME. AND WITH THAT WE CAN FLY ABOUT AN HOUR, A LITTLE MORE. TYPICALLY I TRY TO FLY 45 MINUTES TO AN HOUR ON THAT AMOUNT OF FUEL. IN THAT TIME, YOU CAN GO AS FAR AS THE WIND IS BLOWING FAST, SO YOU KNOW, IF YOU'RE MOVING 20 MILES AN HOUR AND YOU FLY FOR AN HOUR, YOU ARE GOING TO GO 20 MILES. WE HAVE GAUGES IN HERE SIMILAR TO SOME OF THOSE THAT YOU WOULD HAVE IN AN AIRPLANE. WE HAVE AN ALTIMETER, WHICH TELLS YOU HOW HIGH YOU ARE, AND ONE THAT TELLS YOU HOW FAST YOU ARE GOING UP OR DOWN. THEN WE ALSO HAVE A -- IT'S CALLED A PIE ROM TER, AND THAT'S A TEMPERATURE GAUGE THAT TELLS ME HOW HOT THE AIR IS AT THE TOP OF THE ENVELOPE SO I KNOW WHEN I'M FLYING AT EQUILIBRIUM. 

IF YOU EVER WONDERED HOW TO GET STARTED IN THIS HIGH-ADVENTURE SPORT. 

THE TEACHER INSTRUCTS YOU IN HOW TO OPERATE THE BALLOON, HOW TO FLY IT, BE SAFE IN IT. YOU GO TO GROUND SCHOOL AND LEARN THE RULES AND REGULATIONS. YOU YOU LEARN ABOUT STUDYING WEATHER AND ALL OF THE DIFFERENT COMPONENTS OF FLYING THE BALLOON. THEN YOU TAKE A WRITTEN TEST. YOU FLY THE BALLOON SOLO. ONCE YOU'RE COMPETENT, YOU FLY THE BALLOON SOLO. THEN AFTER YOU'RE PROFICIENT AND YOU'RE READY TO TAKE A TEST, YOU FIND AN FAA-CERTIFIED DESIGNATED EXAMINER WHO THEN FLIES WITH YOU AND EVALUATES YOUR SKILL. AND IF HE THINKS YOU ARE READY TO FLY ON YOUR OWN, THEN HE SIGNS YOU OFF, AND YOU ARE A PRIVATE PILOT. 

ONCE YOU DO BECOME A BALLOON PILOT, NEXT STEP IS TO BUY A BALLOON. 

IT'S A LOT LIKE BUYING A CAR. YOU CAN GET USED ONES. YOU KNOW, A DECENT USED ONE THAT WILL LAST A FEW YEARS, DEPENDING ON HOW MUCH AND HOW YOU FLY IT, SIX OR SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS, UP TO BRAND-NEW ONES, DEPENDING ON THE SIZE, YOU COULD GO 30,000 ON UP TO 100,000 OR MORE FOR SOME OF THE FANCY SPECIAL SHAPED BALLOONS. 

AND SO, AFTER ABOUT AN HOUR OR SO FLIGHT, IT WAS BACK TO MOTHER EARTH. 

ALL THAT'S LEFT NOW IS THE CHAMPAGNE TOAST; RATHER, THE GRAPE JUICE TOAST. 

AND IN THE FINEST HOT AIR BALLOON TRADITION, FOR THOSE WHO SURVIVE THEIR FIRST FLIGHT, LIKE OUR VIDEOGRAPHER, JEFFREY JAMES, FIRST A LITTLE CRISTENING ON THE OLD NOGGIN, AND THEN DOWNING THE SPARKLING GRAPE JUICE ELIXIR IN THE AND THEN DOWNING THE SPARKLING GRAPE JUICE ELIXIR IN THE TRUEST OF FASHION. 

ONE OF THE FINEST FISHING AND BOATING DESTINATIONS IN THE NATION HAPPENS TO BE IN NORTH ARKANSAS NINE MOUNTAIN HOME, BULL SHOALS WHITE RIVER STATE PARK. TOGETHER, BULL SHOALS LAKE AND THE WHITE RIVER FORM AN ANGLER'S PARADISE. 

WE'RE MAINLY A RECREATION TYPE PARK THAT PREDOMINANTLY WE HAVE A LARGE CAMPGROUND, HEAVILY USED CAMPGROUND BECAUSE IT'S RIGHT ON THE COOL WATERS OF THE WHITE RIVER AND TROUT FISHING, SO A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE ATTRACTED TO THIS AREA SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE BEAUTY OF THE AREA, BUT ALSO BECAUSE OF THE COOL BREEZES YOU CAN GET, EVEN DURING THE HEAT OF THE SUMMER, OFF THE WHITE RIVER AND FOR TROUT FISHING. AND JUST THE OVERALL BEAUTY OF THIS WHOLE AREA. AND JUST THE OVERALL BEAUTY OF THIS WHOLE AREA. IT'S QUITE REMARKABLE. 

THERE IS A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE HERE, EVEN MOUNTAIN BIKING ENTHUSIASTS ALONG THE OAK RIDGE MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL. 

YES, WE HAVE ABOUT A 3.5-MILE MOUNTAIN BIKE/HIKING TRAIL THAT'S USED FOR BOTH PURPOSES, AND FROM WHAT I AM TOLD BY THE AVID MOUNTAIN BIKERS, OUR MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL IS AS GOOD AS THEY COME IN THESE PARTS, SO EVEN THOUGH IT'S SHORTER THAN SOME OF YOUR STANDARD MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS, IT'S VERY QUALITY MOUNTAIN BIKING. 

AND AN INTERESTING AREA HERE BY THE VISITORS CENTER IS THAT BUTTERFLY GARDEN. 

BUTTERFLY GARDEN. WE HAVE LOTS OF VOLUNTEERS THAT, NUMBER ONE, PUT THAT IN, AND THEY ALSO MAINTAIN IT, BUT IT ATTRACTS ALL DIFFERENT TYPES OF BUTTERFLIES, ESPECIALLY THIS TIME OF YEAR. THEY ARE VERY ACTIVE OUT THERE. 

THIS NEW BEAUTIFUL VISITORS CENTER, TELL US ABOUT IT. AND IT'S GREEN? 

YEAH, IT'S A GREEN BUILDING, LOTS OF GREEN FEATURES LOCATED WHEN THEY BUILT THIS BUILDING. THEY TRIED TO MAKE IT AS ENERGY EFFICIENT AS THEY COULD. WE ARE REAL PROUD OF IT. OF COURSE, IT'S BEEN HERE RIGHT AT FOUR YEARS NOW. WE OPENED IN OCTOBER OF '06. SO WE AVERAGE ABOUT 75,000 VISITORS A YEAR THAT COME THROUGH THIS BUILDING FOR VARIOUS PURPOSES, BUT WE'RE REAL PROUD OF IT. PUT A LOT OF HARD WORK INTO REAL PROUD OF IT. PUT A LOT OF HARD WORK INTO THIS. 

AN INTERESTING EXHIBIT HERE AT THE VISITORS CENTER IS THIS, ONE OF THE ORIGINAL JOHN BOATS THAT WAS USED ON THE WHITE RIVER AND WAS PROBABLY BUILT AROUND THE 1930s. ALSO ON DISPLAY ARE SOME OF THE STATE RECORD FISH THAT HAVE BEEN CAUGHT, AND IN THE AQUARIUM, AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT YOU CAN CATCH IN THE FLOWING WHITE RIVER JUST OUTSIDE. 

EXACTLY, IN THE AQUARIUM, ESPECIALLY THE TROUT AQUARIUM, BECAUSE I DO QUITE A BIT OF TROUT FISHING MYSELF, AND SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO CATCH A FEW FISH TO REPLENISH THE AQUARIUMS AND KEEP THOSE UP-TO-DATE SO EVERYBODY CAN SEE WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE BECAUSE NOT EVERYBODY LIKES TO FISH OR KNOWS. SO WE TRY TO ACCOMMODATE THEM ON THAT. 

ALL RIGHT. ANY OF YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS AROUND THE STATE PARK? 

WELL, NATURALLY, CAMPING. I'VE BEEN AT THIS PARK FOR OVER 21 YEARS, AND MY WIFE AND I, OF COURSE, WE LIVE ON THE PARK, AND WHEN WE VACATION, WE PULL OUR CAMPER RIGHT DOWN INTO THE PARK THAT I MANAGE, AND THAT'S WHERE WE VACATION. NOW, HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW THAT CAN SAY THAT? THAT'S -- THAT TELLS YOU ENOUGH, IF YOU ARE WILLING TO VACATION WHERE YOU WORK. THAT'S HOW MUCH WE LOVE THIS AREA. 

THERE'S NO NEED TO GO ANYWHERE ELSE. 

NO NEED TO SPEND GAS AND TIME GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE WHEN RIGHT HERE IS THE PLACE TO BE, AND WE LOVE IT. RIGHT HERE IS THE PLACE TO BE, AND WE LOVE IT. IT'S JUST WONDERFUL. 

THERE'S ALSO ANOTHER EXTRA ADDED ATTRACTION, OR, RATHER, ONE THAT'S FINALLY BEEN REINSTATED. 

WE BROUGHT BACK THE DAM AND POWER HOUSE TOURS. IT TOOK, ACTUALLY, APPROVAL FROM HOMELAND SECURITY IN WASHINGTON TO GET THOSE REINSTATED. SO THOSE NOW ARE OFFERED EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH THIS VISITORS CENTER WITH OUR TOUR GUIDES THAT WE PROVIDE, WHICH ARE VOLUNTEERS. IT'S A SMALL FEE, AND WE TAKE YOU OVER AND TAKE YOU THROUGH THE POWER HOUSE AND STUFF. SO WE'RE VERY FORTUNATE, IN TODAY'S TIMES, FOR THEM TO ALLOW THESE TOURS TO BE GOING ON, AND THEY ARE JUST A HUGE SUCCESS. LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE ENJOYING GETTING TO GO INTO SOMETHING LIKE THIS. IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE IT, THEN WE OFFER THOSE MEMORIAL DAY THROUGH LABOR DAY, AND THEY'RE VERY SUCCESSFUL AND SOMETHING THROUGH LABOR DAY, AND THEY'RE VERY SUCCESSFUL AND SOMETHING YOU DEFINITELY WILL WANT TO DO. 

BEFORE LEAVING BULL SHOALS WHITE RIVER STATE PARK, MAKE SURE YOU STOP BY THE GASTON WILDFLOWER MEADOW AND TRAIL, ESPECIALLY DURING SPRING AND EARLY SUMMER, WHEN YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ENJOY THE GREATEST VARIETY OF WILDFLOWERS. AND THERE'S ALSO BIG SPRING, WHICH POURS OUT 29 MILLION GALLONS OF WATER A DAY INTO THE WHITE RIVER. 

WHEN TALKING ABOUT A NATIONAL FOREST, YOU MAY THINK OF ONLY TREES. AH, BUT IN THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST, AMIDST ALL THE TREES ARE HIDDEN TREASURES, ESPECIALLY ALONG THE KRISTAL VISTA AUTO TOUR SOUTHEAST OF MOUNT IDA. YES, THE KEY WORD HERE IS KRISTAL.  -- CRYSTAL.  THE MAIN FOCUS OF THIS ROUTE IS ACTUALLY SOUTH OF HIGHWAY 270, TURNING SOUTH ONTO LOGAN GAP ROAD NOUAR THE MOUNT IDA AIRPORT, CONTINUE TO FOREST ROAD 177, AND THEN TURN RIGHT. THE DESCRIPTIVE SIGNS THAT WERE ONCE HERE ALONG THE ROUTE HAVE EITHER WEATHERED AWAY OR HAVE BEEN VANDALIZED, BUT NEVERTHELESS, YOU CAN STILL ENJOY WHAT OTHERS HAVE ENJOYED IN THIS NATIONAL FOREST FOR ENJOY WHAT OTHERS HAVE ENJOYED IN THIS NATIONAL FOREST FOR MANY YEARS. WHAT YOU'LL FIRST BEGIN TO NOTICE AS YOU DRIVE ALONG THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN AREA IS ALL THE SANDSTONE. TAKE TIME TO GET OUT AND DO A LITTLE EXPLORING. THIS CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN SANDSTONE IS ONE OF THE MAJOR COMPONENTS OF THESE HILLS AND IS ESTIMATED TO BE ABOUT 500 MILLION YEARS OLD. THE ROCK IN THIS AREA IS WHAT'S LEFT OF MOUNTAIN PEAKS THAT 250 MILLION YEARS AGO MAY HAVE BEEN COMPARABLE IN SIZE TO THE SIERRA NEVADA AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN RANGES TODAY. THE OUACHITA MOUNTAINS ARE AN OLD RANGE WHICH HAVE WEATHERED THE OUACHITA MOUNTAINS ARE AN OLD RANGE WHICH HAVE WEATHERED DOWN THROUGH NATURAL EROSION. WHEN YOU REACH THE INTERSECTION WITH FOREST ROAD 2237, CONTINUE ALONG FOREST ROAD 177 VEERING LEFT, WHERE YOU CAN TAKE A REALLY NEAT SIDE TRIP TO LEFT, WHERE YOU CAN TAKE A REALLY NEAT SIDE TRIP TO COLLIER SPRING. 

SINCE THE SPRING WATER IS NOT TESTED, IT IS ADVISABLE TO EITHER BOIL IT OR CHEMICALLY TREAT IT BEFORE USE, BUT IF NOTHING ELSE, YOU CAN JUST -- AH!  -- SPLASH SOME ON FOR INSTANT AH!  -- SPLASH SOME ON FOR INSTANT REFRESHMENT. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE FORGOTTEN GEMS OF THE NATIONAL FOREST FIRST CONSTRUCTED BY THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS BACK IN THE 1930s. IT'S THE PERFECT SETTING TO STOP FOR A PICK NIMH LUNCH AND TAKE A BREAK DURING YOUR STOP FOR A PICK NIMH LUNCH AND TAKE A BREAK DURING YOUR BACK-ROAD TOUR OF THE OUACHITA. AFTER LUNCH, YOU CAN ENJOY THE WATERFALL AT THE OTHER END OF THE COLLIER SPRING, COMPLETE WATERFALL AT THE OTHER END OF THE COLLIER SPRING, COMPLETE WITH FISH IN THE NATURAL POOL. WHEN YOU'RE READY TO CONTINUE, JUST BACKTRACK UP TO THE MAIN ROUTE, TURNING LEFT ONTO FOREST ROAD 2237, MAKING YOUR WAY TO THE NAMESAKE OF THIS TOUR, ROAD 2237, MAKING YOUR WAY TO THE NAMESAKE OF THIS TOUR, CRYSTAL VISTA ITSELF. HERE IT'S ABOUT A MILE HIKE UP THE MOUNTAIN TO WHERE YOU'LL EVENTUALLY COME UPON AN ABANDONED QUARTS CRYSTAL MINE THAT'S BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO A PUBLIC ROCK-HOUNDING SITE, THE FIRST OF ITS KIND IN THE PUBLIC ROCK-HOUNDING SITE, THE FIRST OF ITS KIND IN THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST. IF YOU DO MAKE THE HIKE UP ATOP CRYSTAL VISTA AND YOU DECIDE TO DIG FOR QUARTS, A GOOD TOOL IS A CROWBAR. I COULDN'T FIND MINE, SO USED A LARGE SCREWDRIVER. PERSONAL USE ONLY AND NO RESALE OF THE QUARTS. QUARTS. QUARTZ. WE MUST TELL YOU, THOUGH, THAT SINCE THIS IS AN ABANDONED MINE, GOOD QUALITY QUARTZ CRYSTALS ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. THAT'S NOT TO SAY AFTER PUTTING FORTH THE EFFORT TO DIG FOR A LITTLE WHILE, YOU CAN'T COME UP WITH A DECENT PIECE TO TAKE HOME. IF YOU DON'T FIND THAT SPECIAL QUARTZ CRYSTAL, NOT TO DISPAIR BECAUSE THE WILDFLOWERS AND THE VISTA AT CRYSTAL VISTA IS WORTH BECAUSE THE WILDFLOWERS AND THE VISTA AT CRYSTAL VISTA IS WORTH THE HIKE UP THE MOUNTAIN. EVERY SUMMER THERE'S QUITE A NEAT OCCURRENCE THAT TAKES PLACE IN THE MIDDLE OF OUACHITA ON A TINY ISLAND CALLED BIRD ISLAND, AND FOR A GOOD REASON. THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PURPLE MARTINS CONVERGE UPON THIS ISLAND FROM MID-JULY TO LATE AUGUST. WHY? THAT'S WHY WE'RE HERE TO DO A WHY? THAT'S WHY WE'RE HERE TO DO A LITTLE EXPLORING. IF YOU LOOK AT A MAP OF LAKE OUACHITA, BIRD ISLAND IS LITERALLY SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAKE. WE VENTURED OUT WITH LAKE OUACHITA STATE PARK INTERPRETER SUSAN TYING ERT AND AWED -- TIE GERT AND AUDUBON EDUCATION DIRECTOR MARY SMITH.  

FISHERMEN BEGAN NOTICING BIRDS COMING HERE SOON AFTER THE LAKE WAS FORMED, BUT AS FAR AS WE CAN -- 

AS EARLY AS THE '50s, THEN? 

I THINK SO. NOW, WHETHER THEY WERE IN THESE NUMBERS, WE FEEL LIKE THEY'VE RECENTLY EXPLODED BECAUSE OTHER STAGING AREAS MAY HAVE COLLAPSED ON BEAVER SPRINGS DURING THE FLOODS. SO THAT MAY HAVE DOUBLED OUR NUMBERS HERE. BUT FISHERMEN SAY THEY'VE ALWAYS BEEN HERE JUST AS SOON AS AFTER THE LAKE WAS FORMED. SO THEY LIKED IT AND CAME WHEN THEY SAW THEIR OPPORTUNITY TO GET LAKEFRONT PROPERTY. 

SO THIS IS A STAGING AREA, I GUESS ONE OF MANY STAGING AREAS, BEFORE THEY HEAD TO SOUTH AMERICA. 

RIGHT. YOU CAN THINK OF THIS KIND OF LIKE A MARTIN MOTEL ON THE MIGRATION HIGHWAY TO BRAZIL. WHEN THEY LEAVE THEIR ROOST, THEY GET TOGETHER FOR A BIG PARTY WITH THEIR FRIENDS AND FLY TOGETHER DOWN SOUTH FOLLOWING THE INSECTS. 

WHY, THOUGH, THIS PARTICULAR ISLAND RIGHT HERE SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAKE DO YOU THINK? 

WE THINK IT'S BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE PREDATORS HERE, AS MANY. THEY PROBABLY DON'T HAVE AS MANY SNAKES. THEY STILL HAVE [INAUDIBLE] BECAUSE WE FOUND ONE LAST NIGHT. WE FEEL LIKE IT'S COOL IN THE SUMMER. THEY CAN GET WATER AND INSECTS HERE IN THE WORST OF THE SUMMER. SO IT'S JUST A GREAT PLACE FOR THEM TO VACATION BEFORE THEY FLY SOUTH, AND TO FATTEN UP. IT'S KIND OF LIKE WE ALL WANT TO GO AND LAY OUT AND HAVE FUN. SO I THINK THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE DOING. THEY ARE FATTENING UP ON NEARBY INSECTS AND GETTING READY TO GO. 

AND THEY START CONGREGATING HERE WHAT? ABOUT AN HOUR OR SO BEFORE SUNSET? 

THEY ARE STARTING TO COME IN NOW. WE HAVE A FEW THERE. BY ABOUT 7:30, THEY'LL BEGIN TO START SWIRLING AROUND THE ISLAND. AND WHEN THE SUN GOES COMPLETELY DOWN, THEY WILL COLLAPSE, AND THEY'LL GET QUIET. AND THEY WAIT UNTIL THEY'RE PRETTY CERTAIN THERE'S NOT A HAWK IN THERE OR ANOTHER PREDATOR, AND THEY'LL WAIT, LET THE MORE FOOLISH YOUNG ONES GO IN FIRST. 

NOW, THIS ISLAND ALSO HAS OTHER BIRDS WE SEE OVER HERE. 

WHEN YOU LOOK ON THIS END, YOU'LL SEE THE WHITE IN THE CYPRESS, AND MOST OF THEM ARE CATTLE -- BUT WE'RE ALSO EXCITING WE HAVE WHITE IBIS, GREAT EGRETS, ARE SNOWY EGRETS, LITTLE HERON, GREAT BLUE HERON. THIS IS THE FIRST YEAR WE DOCUMENTED THE IBIS ON THE ISLAND, AND WE HAVE NO IDEA WHY THEY'RE THERE OR WHEN THEY CAME. WE HAVEN'T SEEN THEM HERE BEFORE. SO CATTLE EGRETS ARE A RECENT MIGRANT NORTH FROM SOUTH AMERICA. AND THEY'VE COME TO ARKANSAS IN GREAT NUMBERS, SO WE'RE KIND OF WONDERING IF THE IBIS ARE THINKING THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE TOO. 

THIS REALLY HAS TURNED INTO A BIRD ISLAND EXTRAORDINARY AIR. 

FOR ANY BIRDER WHO WANTS TO COME AND SEE A WIDE VARIETY OF NEAT BIRDS AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND THEIR BEHAVIOR, THIS IS THE PLACE. AND WHAT A MORE COOL IN THE SUMMER AND BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DO IT, I DON'T THINK THERE IS ONE. 

RECENTLY, BIRD ISLAND RECEIVED THE DISTINCTION AS AN IMPORTANT BIRD AREA BY THE RECEIVED THE DISTINCTION AS AN IMPORTANT BIRD AREA BY THE NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY. 

AND THAT IS AN INTERNATIONAL DESIGNATION. WE HAVE A COMMITTEE OF SCIENTISTS, AND WE HAVE TO MEET STRICT REQUIREMENTS BY THE INTERNATIONAL -- NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY IN PARTNERSHIP WITH BIRD LIFE INTERNATIONAL. SO PEOPLE NOMINATE AREAS, AND IF THEY MEET THE CERTAIN CRITERIA. AND THIS AREA HAS BEEN MONITORED FOR TWO YEARS BY MOUNTAIN TOWN HIGH SCHOOL IN PARTNERSHIP WITH AUDUBON TO GET THE DATA, AND THEY RAN BOATS OUT HERE AND HAVE DONE PHOTOGRAPHS AND COUNTS AND PICTURES AND PREPARED ALL THE SCIENTIFIC DATA. 

AND THERE HAS TO BE WHAT? AT LEAST -- THE NUMBER HAS TO BE AT LEAST 10,000? 

A MINIMUM OF 10,000. YOU HAVE TO HAVE PROOF. 

MUCH MORE HERE THAN THAT. 

RIGHT. LAST SUMMER WE DIDN'T GET -- I MEAN, SUMMER BEFORE LAST, WE DIDN'T GET 10,000. WE ONLY GOT EIGHT. BUT LAST SUMMER WE GOT BETWEEN 30 AND 50. SO THERE WAS A BIG UPTICK IN THE NUMBERS, AND THEY THINK MAYBE TWO STAGING AREAS COMBINED. 

LIKE OUACHITA STATE PARK INTERPRETER SUSAN TIE GERT RECALLED HER FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH ALL THE PURPLE MARTINS. 

WELL, IT ACTUALLY STARTED A FEW YEARS BACK WHEN I FIRST STARTED WORKING HERE AT LAKE OUACHITA STATE PARK. I HAD SPENT SOME EVENINGS KAYAKING OUT AT SUNSET, AND I NOTICED ALL THE MARTINS THAT STAYED AT THE PARK DURING THE DAY HEADED WEST RIGHT ABOUT AN HOUR OR SO BEFORE SUNSET. I WAS LIKE WHERE ARE THE BIRDS GOING? AND I ASKED AROUND SOME OF THE LOCAL FISHERMEN AND SOME OF THE LOCALS, AND THEY SAID WELL, THEY GO OUT TO BIRD ISLAND. SO THAT WAS MY FIRST CLUE THAT SOMETHING WAS REALLY REMARKABLE HAPPENING OUT HERE. 

SUSAN SOON REALIZED WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE LEFT:  OFFER PUBLIC OUTINGS TO BIRD ISLAND. 

OVER THE PAST COUPLE YEARS, I HAVE BEEN HELPING MOUNTAIN PINE HIGH SCHOOL COME OUT AND DO RESEARCH, AND ONCE I SAW THE BIRDS, I JUST KNEW I HAD TO SHARE THAT WITH OUR VISITORS, SO WE'VE MADE IT A POINT THIS YEAR TO OFFER PURPLE MARTIN TOURS, AND THIS YEAR WE'VE ONLY OFFERED MAYBE ONE OR TWO A WEEK, AND THEY'VE SOLD OUT EVERY SINGLE WEEK, SO NEXT YEAR I'LL BE SURE TO INCLUDE THREE OR FOUR PER WEEK WHILE THE I'LL BE SURE TO INCLUDE THREE OR FOUR PER WEEK WHILE THE MARTINS ARE HERE. 

AND THE CLOSER IT GETS TO SUNSET, THE MORE AMAZING THE ENTIRE SCENE BECOMES HERE AT SUNSET, THE MORE AMAZING THE ENTIRE SCENE BECOMES HERE AT BIRD ISLAND. SO VENTURE OUT YOURSELF TO BIRD ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF LAKE OUACHITA ANYTIME BETWEEN MID-JULY TO LATE AUGUST, AND FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION PLUS MANY OF OUR OTHERS, TO CHECK OUT VIDEOS OR ORDER A COPY OF AN EPISODE, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, AETN.ORG/EXPLORING ARKANSAS. AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF EXPLORING ARKANSAS.

AETN.org > Programs > Exploring Arkansas > Exploring Arkansas November 2010