Jonesboro - May 5-6, 2023


The 2023 Spring Convention of the Arkansas Audubon Society will be held May 5-6 at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at 2840 So. Caraway Rd in Jonesboro. We’re excited to be offering some outstanding speakers and activities at this meeting! All meals and meetings will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel has an indoor pool, fitness center, and pet-friendly rooms, as well as the usual amenities.

Room rates are $109 per night plus tax. To make a reservation, call the hotel at 870-931-7727 and indicate you are part of the Audubon conference or click on this link.

Reserve your room by April 21 to ensure your special AAS room rate. Register at by April 21 to qualify for Early Bird registration rates: $25 for AAS members and $35 for non-members. Save money by registering early! Also please note the cutoff date for registration is May 1.

Our Friday night speaker is Mike Slay, who will speak on "Blanchard Springs Caverns:  Arkansas's Underground Biodiversity." Mike has been the Ozark Karst Program Director for The Nature Conservancy since 2008. He has extensive experience exploring Ozark Highland caves and has coordinated species monitoring and habitat analysis in several hundred caves. For more on Mike, see below and also check out his website.

On Saturday afternoon, we will offer our usual symposium with an eclectic array of topics that’s still evolving. At present, topics include “Life Upside Down --The  Nuthatch”; “Mystery of Blue and the Duck”; “Tips for Reducing Plastic Use" with a drawing for sample products (attendees only); and an update on window collision recommendations. A reception with a cash bar will follow.

As a special treat, our Saturday night speaker will be birder and award-winning documentary film maker Bob Dolgan, whose presentation title is “The World of Monty and Rose” and who will be showing his film “Monty and Rose 2,” about the first piping plovers to nest in Chicago in 70-plus years and the Great Lakes piping plovers. He is the founder of Turnstone Strategies LLC. If you're a member of the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas, you may have seen a much shorter version of this film, Monty and Rose 1, several years ago. This is not that film. 

In addition to our customary field trips, ASU Professor Dr. Than Boves and his students have kindly offered a new experience for convention attendees! Five “research field trips” will be offered. Each can accommodate ten people. The species being studied are American Kestrels, Chuck-Wills-Widows and Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills, Kingbirds, Prothonotary Warblers, and Loggerhead Shrikes. If you prefer our usual field trips, one will take place at on Friday afternoon, and two or three on Saturday beginning early. All field trips will leave from the hotel lobby and all are free. All are or will be described in detail on the field trips page of the registration website.

Finally, we will hold our usual silent auction with winners to be announced Saturday and will draw for door prizes on both nights. We hope you can join us for an entertaining and educational weekend of watching and learning about birds and biodiversity!

Arkansas Audubon Society COVID-19 Policy: We recommend all individuals concerned about catching COVID-19 wear masks indoors. At the time of this writing, the CDC indicates the community level of COVID-19 is “low.” Masks are not required generally, except that people with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a high-quality mask or respirator when indoors in public.  Arkansas Audubon Society meeting participants assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and its variants.

About Our Speakers

Mike Slay

Mike Slay has been the Ozark Karst Program Director for The Nature Conservancy since 2008. Before joining TNC he coordinated karst research during positions held at the University of Arkansas, Buffalo River NPS, Illinois Natural History Survey, and Missouri Department of Conservation. Since joining TNC, he has worked with partners such as the US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Missouri Department of Conservation, Oklahoma Biological Survey, and Illinois Natural History Survey to conserve and protect karst species and habitats. He has assisted with the discovery of over 15 karst species new to science. He has been the recipient of numerous grants and coauthored approximately 40 publications.

Bob Dolan

Bob Dolgan is a birder and filmmaker who has created two films about Piping Plovers Monty and Rose, the first to nest in Chicago in 70-plus years. The films have aired on public television and at film festivals, and Bob received the 2022 Excellence in Environmental Reporting Award from the Chicago Audubon Society. "The Magic Stump" is his newest film, and his next project, "Fluddles," is due out in Fall 2023. He lives on Chicago's beautiful Northwest Side with his wife and two daughters. He's a graduate of Kenyon College in Ohio and has an MBA from Northwestern University. 

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Friday, May 5, 2023
Hotel Lobby 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm Field Trip and Kestrel Research Field Trip
Ozark Room 3:30 pm - 6:00 pm Registration
Ozark Room 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm Dinner
Ozark Room 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm Blanchard Springs Caverns: Arkansas's Underground Biodiversity
Mike Slay - The Nature Conservancy
Ozark Room 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Information about Saturday Activities; Drawing for Door Prizes
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Ozark Room 6:00 am - 7:00 am Grab n Go Breakfast
Hotel Lobby 7:00 am - 4:00 pm Field Trips and Kingbird Research Field Trip
- Trips will end at varying times
Hotel Lobby 10:00 am - 2:30 pm Prothonotary Warblers Research Field Trip
- Participants can return early
Hotel Lobby 11:00 am - 3:30 pm Loggerhead Shrikes Field Trip
- Participants can return early
Ozark Room 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm Symposium
Jack Stewart -
Cotton Room 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm Reception
Ozark Room 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm Dinner
Ozark Room 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm The World of Monty and Rose
Bob Dolgan - Turnstone Strategies LLC
Ozark Room 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Business Meeting, Field Trip Reports, Door Prizes, Auction Winners Announced
Lynn Foster -

Field Trips

Friday, May 5, 2023
F1 - Craighead Forest
Depart: 1:00 PM (TBA)

Difficulty: Easy  Leader: Karen Holliday
F2 - Fields Surrounding Jonesboro--American Kestrels
Depart: 1:00 PM (1 hour)

We will go out into the agricultural areas surrounding Jonesboro to experience our American Kestrel research, while discussing the conservation of the species and the concept of One Health eco-agricultural integration. We will check some nest boxes that may be occupied by kestrels. If there are nestlings, we may band them and collect poop samples (to study diet using DNA metabarcoding). We may also try to use bal-chatri traps to catch some adults (and collect fecal samples from them). We will also bird in the agricultural areas along the way. All of the nest boxes are within 10-30 minute drives from town and we can drive directly up to the nest boxes. So as long as people are ok driving their vehicles on well-maintained dirt roads, it should be accessible for all. Total trip time can vary depending on how long people want to stay out (could be as short as 1 hr or as long as 3 hrs)! NOTE: Limited to 10 participants.
Difficulty: Easy  Leader: Ty Sharrow
F3 - Scatter Creek WMA--Chuck-Wills-Widow
Depart: 6:30 PM (45 minutes)

We will visit Scatter Creek WMA, which is located about 45 minutes north of Jonesboro. During the visit, we'll have the opportunity to observe two out of the three nightjar species that can be found in Arkansas: Chuck-will's-widow and Eastern Whip-poor-will. We may also see Eastern Screech-Owls, Great Horned Owls, and bats. We'll discuss the unique behaviors and natural history of nightjars and use playback to attract them for observation. To maximize our chances of seeing these birds, we'll aim to arrive at Scatter Creek 15 minutes before sunset and park our cars in the large gravel area at (36.156468, -90.580388). If the birds are not in close proximity, we may have to walk up to 1.5 miles. It's important to bring flashlights (headlamps and/or handheld flashlights) and bug spray, as well as a light jacket since nighttime temperatures in early May can dip down to the low 60s. NOTE: Limited to 10 participants.
Difficulty: Moderate  Leader: Brandon Dunnahoo
Saturday, May 6, 2023
S1 - Lake Frierson State Park
Depart: 7:00 AM (TBA)

Difficulty: Moderate  Leader: TBA
S2 - Crowley's Ridge State Park
Depart: 7:00 AM (TBA)

Difficulty: Moderate  Leader: Karen Holliday
S3 - Craighead Forest--Kingbirds
Depart: 1:00 AM (15 minutes)

We will visit Craighead Forest Park Saturday morning to attempt to capture Eastern Kingbirds for a project studying the evolution of hosts and their parasites. Craighead Forest Park is located south of Jonesboro and is a hotspot for birding during spring migration. Besides the netting demonstration for an Eastern Kingbird (and other songbirds), we will very likely see migrating warblers and other songbirds. We will meet individually at the entrance of Craighead Forest Park (35.779499, -90.709375) in the parking area before moving everyone to a net set-up for the Eastern Kingbird (it is a 10-15 min drive from the Hilton Garden Inn). Folks will get to see how we attempt to capture songbirds, and if we are lucky, process a few birds. Regardless, we will walk through the banding and processing steps as well as describe ongoing genomic work and the questions associated with the project. If time allows, we will walk and bird nearby to try to find some migrants. The site is very accessible to most people and we can spend anywhere from 1-3 hrs here. NOTE: This trip is limited to 10 participants.
Difficulty: Easy  Leader: Alex Worm
S4 - St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA--Prothonotary Warbler
Depart: 10:00 AM (45 minutes)

If experiencing Prothonotary Warblers up close and personal sounds “sweet, sweet, sweet” to you, then you won’t want to miss this field trip! We will travel to St. Francis Sunken Lands Wildlife Management Area (35.722242, -90.392080) where we are in the midst of conducting a field experiment to better understand how feather mites (tiny spider-relatives that live on feathers) impact their avian hosts. To address this and several other mitey-mysteries, we have captured, banded, and measured Prothonotaries at this site over the last two years and have removed mites from half of them. This year, we (you included!) are looking for any returnees and attempting to recapture/remeasure them. By doing so, we will be able to determine if mites are good for birds (mutualists), bad for birds (parasites), or do not impact birds at all (commensals). We will depart in the morning (with some flexibility) and drive ~45 minutes to the field site. This trip will require some light walking (and it could be muddy). We can spend up to 3 hrs at the site, which is also full of migrating songbirds, and you are free to leave earlier if you drive your own vehicle (on well-maintained dirt roads). Bring your binoculars, bug spray, and wear clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. ALTERNATIVE PLAN: If St. Francis WMA roads are flooded, we will go to Bayou DeView WMA (35.622970, -90.943260) instead where we will check out the Prothonotary nest boxes we have installed and capture a few Prothonotaries to check for mites (same time frame, driving distance, and walking conditions). NOTE: This trip is restricted to10 participants.
Difficulty: Moderate  Leader: Alix Matthews
S5 - Fields Surrounding Jonesboro--Loggerhead Shrikes
Depart: 11:00 AM (45 minutes)

This trip will involve driving the agricultural areas surrounding Jonesboro to visit breeding territories of nesting Loggerhead Shrikes! Bring your binoculars to observe these fierce predatory songbirds and the colored bands we have placed on many in the area. We will attempt to trap, band, and process shrikes we see along our drive. We will also visit active nests and potentially band nestlings as well. Since starting to band and monitor shrikes in 2016, the Boves Lab has studied various aspects of their biology, including survival, site fidelity, habitat use, and reproductive success. We are also collecting various samples from these birds to investigate their exposure to agricultural toxins like pesticides and the potential biological effects resulting from this exposure. This trip will require very little walking and will be accessible to all those with a vehicle able to drive on well-maintained dirt roads. This research trip will run for 2-4 hours. Attendees can feel free to return to the convention venue at any time. (Drive time: target areas are all <45 min from Jonesboro)
Difficulty: Easy  Leader: Emily Donahue